Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brightest red dwarf in our sky, workable starship design and how proof of extraterrestrial intelligence would affect humanity’s ‘world’ view

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 -Small, cool, faint, and feeble, most red dwarfs struggle for centuries to generate the same amount of visible light that the Sun throws off in a year. Although red dwarfs outnumber all their brighter brethren put together, not a single one glows brightly enough to stir the unaided eye. Still, one of these dim red suns must be the brightest in Earth's sky. But which one? See article.
g Abodes - Epsilon Eridani, at 10.5 light years, is a relatively nearby star, and we know it has planets. Can we find a way to view those planets, a way that will show us not just pinpoints of light but surface details? See article.
g Message - Quote of the Day: “(Are we alone:) the greatest question ever posed.” — George T. Whitesides
g Cosmicus - Could we develop a workable starship design that doesn't require any technologies that don't seem possible within the next 50 years. See http://www.ibiblio.org/lunar/school/InterStellar/
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity that examines if yeast, a common yet tenacious microbe, can survive boiling water, salt, UV radiation and citric acid? Students find out for themselves by creating "Planets in a Bottle" which illustrate extreme conditions on other worlds. See http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/msad16mar99_1a.htm.
g Imagining -There’s a neat Web site, Sector 001, that reviews the appearance of dozens of Star Trek aliens at http://www.powernet.net/~jcrafton/extra-in.html. It also includes some speculations about each one, particularly why so many are humanoid.
g Aftermath - How would proof of extraterrestrial intelligence affect humanity’s “world” view? Astronomer Steve Dick discusses the matter in this transcribed Smithsonian Institute lecture, from 1999, at http://www.sil.si.edu/silpublications/dibner-library-lectures/extraterrestrial-life/etcopy-kr.htm.

Get your SF book manuscript edited