Thursday, June 28, 2007

Analog for Europa exploration, DEPTHX and SETI primer

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 - After recent successful tests, robotic vehicles will be sent to explore beneath the ice of the Arctic Ocean. The robots will search for unique forms of life on the seafloor of the world's most isolated ocean. See article.
g Life - DEPTHX, an underwater robot capable of navigating without human control, has recovered microbial biofilm samples from the deepest water-filled sinkhole in the world. Microbiologist John Spear is looking forward to learning what the ‘bot brought home. See
g Message -Here’s a nice primer on the SETI@home project plus some information about how to download the program:
g Cosmicus - In the not-too-distant future, NASA is planning to build lunar research outposts where astronauts will perform important scientific experiments on the Moon. However, such missions may have implications for the mental health of employees working in isolation for extended periods. See
g Learning -Quote of the Day: ”Since one of the most wondrous and noble questions in Nature is whether there is one World or many, a question that the human mind desires to understand, it seems desirable for us to enquire about it.” — Albert Magnus
g Imagining -Among the earliest Star Trek alien races that were exact duplicates of homo sapiens were the Beta III humanoids (for picture, see
and click on “Spock and Kirk fire”; look for orange robed man). But the chance of extraterrestrials looking exactly like us is nil. Why? See for the answer. A note here: The Beta III humanoids show up fairly late in Star Trek’s very first season; until that episode, the series was quite conscious of at least making humanoid aliens different in shape and color — or at least producing an excuse, such as the aliens “assumed” human form for some nefarious purpose. With this race, however, exact duplication of Homo sapiens becomes commonplace in the show.
g Aftermath - If SETI is successful in detecting an extraterrestrial civilization, it will raise the question of whether and how humanity should attempt to communicate with the other civilization. How should that decision be made? What should be the content of such a message? Who should decide? The same questions would apply to proposals that signals be sent in the absence of detection, in the hope that they might be detected by an extraterrestrial civilization. See Note: This paper was presented in October 1995.

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