Monday, May 21, 2007

Exoplanet mapped, extinction rates and estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization

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 - Like a sea anchor slacking the pace of a wind-driven ship, helium may be the drag that slows the solar wind in its million-mile-per-hour rush across the cosmos. And because the ordinary solar wind just can't pull hard enough, the helium may build up in the solar atmosphere, until massive amounts of it are explosively expelled during eruptive solar events. See article.
g Abodes - For the first time, astronomers have created a rough map of a planet orbiting a distant sun-like star, employing a technique that may one day enable mapping of Earth-like worlds. See article.
g Life - The slower their reproductive cycle, the higher the risk of extinction for large grazing animals such as deer and antelope that are hunted by humans.
g Intelligence - A new study reveals the existence of a different anatomy in small areas of the brain which could help explain why one same stimulus triggers anxiety in some people and not in others. See
g Message - Estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization is a multi-dimensional challenge. The answer, according to two scientists at the Hungarian Astronomical Association, is less like an equation, and more like a matrix. See Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - It is misleading to think of today’s "space program" as a single-source activity with NASA as the center of the universe. First of all, the multi-nation character of space exploration has long dethroned that notion. See
g Learning - The challenge to communicate both the breadth and depth of astrobiology is discussed by Carol Oliver, of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. As a researcher in communicating science, she considers how best to tell a busy public what it means to explore other worlds for signs of life elsewhere. See
g Imagining - Could extraterrestrials exist in conditions of extreme gravity, as they do in Hal Celement’s “A Mission of Gravity”? see
g Aftermath - Book alert: As many Earthlings already know —including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience — our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that Brian McConnell’s “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” an introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life, begins with some of the details behind the University of California-Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it.

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