Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, liquid telescopes on the Moon and alien languages

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 - Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date. The planet is only 50% larger than Earth and orbits within the ‘habitable zone’ of the star Gliese 581, meaning that the planet could possibly harbor liquid water. See article.
g Life - Quote of the Day: “Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning.” — H. G. Wells
g Cosmicus - Someday, astronauts on the moon may pour liquid onto a disc-shaped mesh to make a huge mirror for a powerful telescope, according to a technical article just made public. See http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0706/25liquidmirror/.
g Learning - This module, from the Japan Science and Technology Corporation, provides excellent background to the search for life in the universe, for kids. There is information about all the planets in the solar system and possibilities for life beyond, as well as descriptions of spacecraft and signals that originate from Earth (requires Flash plug-in). See http://jvsc.jst.go.jp/universe/et_e/index_e.htm.
g Imagining -Book alert: Here’s an oldie worth finding in a used bookstore: Walter E. Meyers’ “Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction.” It examines how science fiction treats aliens using languages, aptly pointing out fallacies and offering some intriguing speculations. See http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/reviews_pages/r25.htm for a review.
g Aftermath - In the absence of knowledge of physical and cultural clues, communication between two species can be almost impossible — almost. See http://www.astrosociety.org/pubs/mercury/9902/vakoch.html. Note: This article is from 1999.

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