Saturday, May 05, 2007

Determining age of stars, heavenly answer to earthly problem and what it’s like to be a SETI astronomer

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Stars - A new method has been developed for accurately determining the ages of stars, and it may also help astronomers understand how planetary systems and their host stars change over time. See article.
g Abodes - If global warming sizzles out of control, could 16 trillion small disks deflect enough sunlight to cool the planet? Astronomer Roger Angel proposes to find out. See
g Life - Scientists unveiled bones from two 82-foot behemoths they said were the largest dinosaurs ever found in Australia. See http://
g Intelligence - You don't have to be smart to be rich. Individuals with below-average IQ test scores were just as wealthy as brainiacs, finds a national survey. See
g Message - What’s it like to be a SETI astronomer, listening for alien radio signals? See Note: This article is from 2000.
g Cosmicus - An astronaut glove stitched together on a Maine engineer's dining room table won a cool $200,000 Thursday in a NASA competition. See
g Learning - A complaint lodged again and again against science fiction aliens is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look at least similar (though not identical) to humans? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in The Science of Aliens.Though the book is a few years old, it’s still worth reading. There’s a review of it at and an interview with the author at
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read David Bischoff’s "The Xaxrling of J. Arnold Boysenberry," anthologized in “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW, 1997).
g Aftermath - As SETI's scientists plan for their first contact with other worlds, who better to consult with than anthropologists, who specialize in encounters with exotic cultures? And thus, over the past several years the SETI Institute has repeatedly brought together anthropologists and scholars from other disciplines, in an attempt to bridge the gap between humans and extraterrestrials. See