Friday, June 29, 2007

Role of water in planetary evolution, satellite solar power stations and imagining an alien species

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 years of preparation, NASA's Dawn mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is ready for launch. Dawn will study two planetary bodies and yield clues about the history of the Solar System and the role of water in planetary evolution. See article.
g Message - It has become somewhat accepted that an extrasolar contact could be interpreted as a good “artificial” signal if it arose from certain branches of mathematics. If another galactic civilization decided to reach us, they would send a beacon of bleeps akin to the digits of “pi” or only prime numbers, because they would realize that no natural process could mimic them. Renowned author and MacArthur “genius” award winner, Stephen Wolfram, argues for a new kind of science, and argues that the line between “artificial” and “natural” signals is not nearly so clear as first supposed. See article. Note: This article is from March 2004.
g Cosmicus - We don't yet know what satellite solar power stations will look like 50 years from now. But we do know how big they'll be: they'll be hundreds of square kilometers in area - otherwise they won't generate enough power to have a significant impact on humans' growing energy needs. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site in which Monica Grady, head of petrology and meteoritics in the department of mineralogy at the Natural History Museum, presents a comprehensive introduction to astrobiology:
g Imagining - No longer can a science fiction writer create a goo-dripping alien just because a story line requires an adversary from another planet to drop in on our unsuspecting world. The average reader is not going to buy into the B-rated movies of old; it takes more than an actor in a rubber mask for them to suspend their disbelief and enjoy a story or novel. Bringing an alien species into a novel requires a bit of planning and thought on the part of the writer. See
g Aftermath - Quote of the Day: “And ahead...? We cannot tell; we are too far out to see the unknown land. It is enough to ride the wave.” — Arthur C. Clark

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