Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Longer days ahead, bonobo and chimp communications and planning for ways to reply to extraterrestrial transmissions

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 - Global warming could cause the days to lengthen. See article.
g Life - Some Caribbean lizards' strong sexual dimorphism allows them to colonize much larger niches and habitats than they might otherwise occupy, allowing males and females to avoid competing with each other for resources and setting the stage for the population as a whole to thrive. The finding, reported in the journal Nature, suggests sex differences may have fueled the evolutionary flourishing of the Earth's wildly diverse fauna in a way not previously appreciated by scientists. See
g Intelligence - Our closest primate relatives, the bonobos and chimps, are more versatile when communicating with their hands, feet and limbs than with their facial expressions and voices. See
g Message - While some scientists cautiously plan for ways to reply to extraterrestrial transmissions, others haven't waited for a signal to start talking. Sending messages from Earth into space to announce the existence of the human race is somewhat rare and controversial. Digital transmissions have been beamed into space from radio telescopes, and four spacecraft currently leaving the solar system bear messages for anyone who finds them. See Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - The concept of dispatching low-cost spacecraft to repair and refuel more expensive troubled satellites took a step closer to reality this week when two first-of-a-kind orbiting testbeds began operations to validate autonomous in-space servicing techniques. See Note: this article is from early 2007.
g Learning - Here’s a good primer to astrobiology that discusses what is astrobiology, lists the types of questions astrobiology seeks to answer, describes how one can become an astrobiologist, and recommends some books in the field. See
g Imagining - Think of your favorite alien on TV or in the movies. Do you have the image in mind? I'd bet that your alien is pretty darn smart. However, despite what we see in “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” the author of “The Science of Aliens” doesn't expect intelligence to be an inevitable result of evolution on other worlds. See
g Aftermath - What happens if the next signal turns out to be the real thing? What happens if the sender wants to talk? Will we know what to say? See for this astrobiology primer.

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