Friday, July 27, 2007

Abundant anions, timescales of interstellar communication and SETI-related issues from a social perspective

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 Life -A discovery of the largest negatively-charged molecule yet seen in space may force a revision of theoretical models of interstellar chemistry. The finding may have implications for the types and abundance of molecules that could have been delivered to the early Earth from interstellar space. See
g Message -We humans are familiar with the back-and-forth of face-to-face contact — something we likely will not have in an interstellar conversation. The timescale of a human life may well not be enough for a meaningful dialogue with another species. Interstellar dialogue may make sense only across generations. See
g Cosmicus -A Pentagon office is taking advantage of the collaborative nature of the Internet as it studies potential applications for space-based solar power, according to one of the officials leading the effort. See
g Learning -Here’s a neat classroom resource courtesy of NASA: “Life on Earth … and Elsewhere?” This booklet contains five classroom activities for grades 5-10 spanning topics from "Defining Life," to "Determining the Chances of Extraterrestrial Life." See http://www.erg.pdf/.
g Imagining - “July Second … (was) the official date of the 1947 ‘Roswell Incident’ and is commemorated by National Flying Saucer Day,” writes Ernest Lilley in the most recent issue of SFRevu. “Though the expected invasion seems to have fizzled, the idea of alien visitors and glowing disks stays with us, even if ‘sightings’ have fallen off in recent years. Like Schroedinger's Cat, they couldn't stand the persistence of vision, and by opening the lid on the box that hid them, we sent them back to the void. See
g Aftermath -Douglas Vakoch is one of a relatively small collection of scientists addressing the question of how to talk back to extraterrestrials. While most researchers involved in the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence come from physics and engineering backgrounds, Vakoch draws on a background in linguistics, sociology and psychology to explore SETI-related issues. Here’s an interview with him from Aug. 2003 about communicating with ET: