Thursday, July 05, 2007

Neutron star jets, biosignatures found in the light spectrum and the hypothesis driving SETI research

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 - One of the astonishing qualities of a black hole is its ability to power great jets of energy and matter into space. Now, using NASA's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, a team of astronomers has obtained evidence that neutron stars - the dense, collapsed cores of exploded stars - produce jets that, relatively speaking, rival those produced by black holes. See article.
g Abodes - Silicon isotopes from the Earth, meteorites and planetary material have shown that the Earth's core may have formed differently than that of Mars. Additionally, the data shows that atoms of silicon from the Earth and Moon were likely mixed in the early stages of their development. The research points to important clues about the history of the Earth's environment. See
g Life - When we think of extrasolar Earth-like planets, the first tendency is to imagine weird creatures like Jar Jar Binks, Chewbacca, and, if those are not bizarre enough, maybe even the pointy-eared Vulcan, Spock, of Star Trek fame. But scientists seeking clues to life on extrasolar planets are studying various biosignatures found in the light spectrum leaking out to Earth to speculate on something more basic and essential. See
g Intelligence -Quote of the Day: “But who shall dwell in these worlds if they are inhabited? … Are we or they Lords of the World? … And how are all things made for man?” — Kepler
g Message -What are our friends south of the equator doing in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence? After all, the Northern Hemisphere only covers half of the galaxy. See
g Cosmicus - How do spacesuits work? See for a good primer.
g Learning - There may be numerous intelligent civilizations on planets throughout our galaxy. That's the hypothesis driving SETI research. We seek evidence of extraterrestrial technology using optical and radio telescopes to search for signals that emanate from other civilized worlds. These places are far, far away. But, when discussing the search with school children, they often simply ask, "Why don't we just go there?" This can be a teachable moment. See
. Note: This article is from Dec. 2003.
g Imagining -Book alert: You’ve got to read Aliens and Alien Societies (Science Fiction Writing Series), by Stanley Schmidt. Whether you're a writer or a reader of science fiction, this how-to guide provides thought-provoking analyses of the ways in which aliens and alien societies can be portrayed convincingly. It's as fascinating as the many classic SF texts it examines. See
for reviews.
g Aftermath - The statement that extraterrestrial intelligence exists or doesn’t can have the parallel statement that God exists or doesn’t. Some people say there’s already sufficient evidence of existence for both. If you set aside abductions and miracles, it’s true that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence for either. However, if and when humanity ever detects evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence, it will break the symmetry of these two statements and, in fact, that evidence will be inconsistent with the existence of God or at least organized religions. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.