Friday, July 13, 2007

Eta Carinae’s demise, under what conditions life might arise on other planets and visions of people living in space

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 - Eta Carinae is a mysterious, extremely bright and unstable star located a mere stone's throw - astronomically speaking - from Earth at a distance of only about 7,500 light years. The star is thought to be consuming its nuclear fuel at an incredible rate, while quickly drawing closer to its ultimate explosive demise. See article.
g Life - One of the biggest puzzles in astrobiology is how did life emerge on Earth, and under what conditions might it arise on other planetary bodies? From Astrobiology Magazine, European Edition is a review of “From Suns to Life,” which investigates the various pieces of this puzzle. See article.
g Message -We’ve all heard of SETI, bit what about METI — “Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” or sending both scientific and artistic messages to the stars? See article.
g Cosmicus - Plenty of books have been written about living in space, but they tend to concentrate on the past experience of people who have stayed in orbit. These people have nearly all been in the unusual situation of doing scientific research. And they have all undergone extensive selection and training, because going to orbit is so expensive today that it would be very wasteful if they were ill or failed to do some of their planned work. And so they've mostly been very busy all the time. So most books don't say much about how it will be for people to live in space for fun, for example in an orbiting hotel. See article.
g Learning -Quote of the Day: "There was a time, not so long ago, when most scientists considered the possibility of life elsewhere as a kind of science fiction subject to be readily dismissed. You don't come upon such opinions so often anymore. . . There is a good reason for that. For the first time we are able to actually explore the question. For thousands of years you could only guess. Now there are experiments that can be done." — Carl Sagan
g Imagining - You may not have noticed (but only if you've been living in a hermetically sealed shipping container). This month is the sixtieth anniversary of what's politely termed the Roswell incident. See
g Aftermath - When we first meet extraterrestrials, will we and they be able to converse? An MIT professor argues that we will — provided they are motivated to cooperate — because we'll both think similar ways. See Note: This article is from 1985.

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