Monday, July 23, 2007

Lopsided debris disc, digging into Mars and making a good first impression on ET

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 -Astronomers using the W. M. Keck Observatory and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study disks of debris around stars have found one that is extremely lopsided. While scientists are accustomed to finding asymmetrical accumulations of dust and larger bodies around stars, the debris disk around a star known as HD 15115 has a needle-like shape. See article.
g Abodes - In an exclusive Astrobiology Magazine interview, Project Scientist Jorge Vago explains why the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover, scheduled for launch in 2011, will arrive prepared to dig beneath the surface in its search for signs of Martian life. See
g Intelligence -Book alert: Check out Paul Davies’ new book, “Cosmic Jackpot”. It’s “a thought-provoking look at the Anthropic principle, which may be the single most controversial theory in current cosmology,” writes SF book reviewer Peter Heck. “Davies is an advocate of the principle, which argues that our being present to view the universe gives important information as to the way that universe is put together.” See
g Message -If some day we decide to transmit intentional messages to the stars, rather than solely listen as current SETI programs do, what would we say? What sort of first impression would we want to give our celestial correspondents? See
g Cosmicus - To get a feel for why using solar energy delivered from space is a good idea it helps if you use a little imagination and envisage where it will lead - the world humans will live in when solar power satellites are a major energy source. Then it's easier to understand why it would obviously be a good direction for technological development to aim at today - instead of being almost completely ignored! See
g Learning -Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Moons of Jupiter.” In this lesson plan, students build model rovers to learn about engineering and evidence of alien life. See http://www.adlerplanet/
g Imagining -Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Starfarers Series”: “Starfarers” (1989), “Transition” (1990), “Metaphase” (1992) and “Nautilus” (1994). In the series, a ship staffed by an international crew goes out to contact alien life. It eventually discovers dying squidmoth, which leads them into further contacts.
g Aftermath -To create interstellar messages that have a realistic chance of being understood across interstellar distances, we need to identify some information shared by humans and extraterrestrials. We need to identify a foundation for establishing a universal language that will let us bridge the gap between our world and theirs, all without the convenience of face-to-face contact. See Note: This article is from 2002.

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