Sunday, July 01, 2007

Stumbling across a message from an alien civilization, space architect and alien design bibliography

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 - Our galaxy is filled with billions of red dwarf stars, all of which are too dim to see with the naked eye. Lying at the faint, red end of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, their small masses - a few tenths that of the Sun - make them much cooler and dimmer than our own Sun. See article.
g Abodes - At this spring’s the American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, an international team of astronomers announced the discovery and identification of 28 new extrasolar planets. See
g Life - Over time, the bacteria have evolved. They are twice as large as their common ancestor. They are also quicker to reproduce, dividing 70 percent faster. The bacteria have also evolved solutions to the torture tests devised by Dr. Lenski. See
g Intelligence - Hormones control growth, metabolism, reproduction and many other important biological processes. In humans, and all other vertebrates, the chemical signals are produced by specialized brain centers such as the hypothalamus and secreted into the blood stream that distributes them around the body. See
g Message -The question of whether we are alone in the universe is one of the biggest of the Big Questions of Existence. One way to settle the matter is to find some cosmic company. A direct approach to this problem is to scan the skies with radio telescopes in the hope of stumbling across a message from an alien civilization. See Note: This article is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - "Every single aspect of space is conspiring at every moment to pretty much kill humans." And this is part of what motivates Madhu Thangavelu to be a space architect. See Note: This article is from 2000.
g Learning - Quote of the Day: “… extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” — Carl Sagan
g Imagining - Alien design bibliography: When science fiction writers set out to design a world, they usually take care that their physics and astronomy conforms to known science by reading a few physics and astronomy books. But when designing aliens, anything goes, it seems! The problem appears to be that the literature of biology is simply unknown in the SF world. Mention Freeman Dyson or Robert Forward, and most hard SF readers and writers will know whom you are talking about. But mention Steven Vogel or Colin Pennycuick, and you are likely to be rewarded with polite bafflement. Here’s a list of books that’ll give you a solid grounding in biology. See
g Aftermath - The more anthropocentric a person is, the less likely he is to believe that life exists beyond Earth. See

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