Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Volcanic eruptions’ effect on climate, why Neanderthals disappeared and decoding ET’s messages

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 - An exploding star first observed last September is the largest and most luminous supernova ever seen, according to University of California, Berkeley, astronomers, and may be the first example of a type of massive exploding star rare today but probably common in the very early universe. See
g Abodes - Scientists examining a spike in worldwide ocean temperatures 55 million years ago have linked it to massive volcanic eruptions that pushed Greenland and northwest Europe apart to create the North Atlantic Ocean. See
g Intelligence - Neanderthals disappeared from Earth more than 20,000 years ago, but figuring out why continues to challenge anthropologists. One team of scientists, however, now says they have evidence to back climate change as the main culprit. See
g Message - How will we decode any message from ET? For some speculation and a discussion of the inherent difficulties, see
; part II follows at
. Note: This story is from summer 2001.
g Cosmicus - A mission to test satellite servicing techniques took a giant leap forward in a 300-mile-high space ballet Saturday, when two spacecraft separated, spent an hour flying in tight formation, and automatically docked together again. See
g Learning - There’s a nice beginner’s guide to astronomy at Astrocentral (see It also has a section on the search for alien life.
g Imagining - There’s an intriguing article online about how Species 8472 of “Star Trek: Voyager” fame was created. Read between the lines: Thoughts about our biases and expectations, as shaped by popular media and entertainment, played a role in designing the alien. See
g Aftermath - Let’s presume we have detected an extraterrestrial intelligence. We cannot tell for sure if the message was intended for us, or what it means. What should we do? See for some speculations.