Monday, July 02, 2007

Likelihood of finding other solar systems like our own, radiation’s threat and

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 -Red dwarfs are smaller, (Q.2)dimmer, and cooler than our sun. There are more than a dozen of these stars within a few light years of our Earth, yet not one of them is visible to the naked eye. For years it was thought that they were a poor place to look for alien lifeforms. However, recent computer models contradict this supposition. This is excellent news for xenobiologists since four out of every five stars is a red dwarf. See article.
g Abodes -Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Center for integrative Planetary Science, leads a team of planet-hunters credited with the discovery of more than 100 planets that orbit nearby stars. At a 2005 symposium on extrasolar planets, Marcy spoke with Astrobiology Magazine Managing Editor Henry Bortman about recent discoveries and the likelihood of finding other solar systems like our own. See article.
g Intelligence -From Astrobiology Magazine, European Edition is an investigation of the life and writings of Camille Flammarion, a nineteenth century French astronomer who had a lasting impact on science and science fiction. See article.
g Message -In 2001, California astronomers broadened the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with a new experiment to look for powerful light pulses beamed our way from other star systems. Scientists from the University of California's Lick Observatory, the SETI Institute, UC-Santa Cruz, and UC-Berkeley used the Lick Observatory's 40-inch Nickel Telescope with a new pulse-detection system capable of finding laser beacons from civilizations many light-years distant. Unlike other optical SETI searches, this new experiment is largely immune to false alarms that slow the reconnaissance of target stars. See article.
g Cosmicus - Radiation may seem like a necessary energy input to sustain any biological ecosystem: warmth, light, photosynthesis depend on our sun. But is radiation an invisible enemy to finding life elsewhere, where a protective blanket does not shroud thinner atmospheres than our own? The recent damage that intense solar flares may have done to an orbiting Mars imager brings back the question of how to plan human missions to other planets. See article.
g Learning -Quote of the Day: "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." — Carl Sagan
g Imagining -Looking for some classic science fiction alien movies? There’s a fairly exhaustive list, with brief explanations of each, here. Now in how each one the aliens really are just mythical monsters that play on human psychology (specifically fear or revulsion). Such films really say less about the evolution of potential extraterrestrial lifeforms and civilizations than about the evolution of human beings and our culture. In fact, here’s an essay that examines a specific detail of that notion: “An Exploration of the Relationship Between Science Fiction Film and the UFO Mythology".
g Aftermath - w will humans handle contact and its aftermath? These may be among the most profound questions that anyone can ask. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.