Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Insights on Earth that Venus and Mars provide, Panspermia debunked and Optical SETI

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 Abodes - Earth sits between two worlds that have been devastated by climate catastrophes. In the effort to combat global warming, our neighbors can provide valuable insights into the way climate catastrophes affect planets. See http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0704/27climates/.
g Life - Can life travel from planet to planet? A theory called Panspermia says that meteorites could potentially act as miniature spaceships, carrying microorganism passengers. But a new study has found that photosynthetic life probably wouldn’t survive the journey. See http://www.astrobio.net/amee/spring_2007/features.htm.
g Message - SETI research isn’t limited to a single facility listening to radio signals. Another dimension of the program is “Optical SETI,” consisting of two efforts based at Berkeley and two at Harvard. To learn more about it, see http://www.planetary.org/html/UPDATES/seti/oseti_article.html.
g Learning - NASA’s free Astrobiology Education Poster illustrates in words and pictures the fundamental questions addressed by astrobiology: What is life? Where is it? How do you find it? Three activities have been developed to explore these themes. It’s great for teachers — or parents looking to spend some quality time with their children. See http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/poster/index.cfm.
g Imagining - Could the Oankali of Octavia E. Butler’s “Xenogenesis” trilogy really use human genes to continue their species? For a biologist’s analysis, see http://biology.kenyon.edu/slonc/books/butler1.html. The answers may surprise you.
g Aftermath - Once scientists are certain that we’ve received a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization, how would we decide to respond? Read the proposal “A Decision Process for Examining the Possibility of Sending Communications to Extraterrestrial Civilizations”(http://www.iaanet.org/p_papers/seti.html), made at the International Academy of Astronautics meeting in Paris during 2000.