Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Taking spacewalks, into Victoria Crater and linguistic issues regarding ETI

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 - In 2003, astronomers discovered a planet outside our solar system by measuring the way light from a distant star warped around the new world's host star. But it took two more years of telescope observations to actually see the host star. Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have for the first time identified the parent star of distant planet discovered through gravitational microlensing. See article.
g Abodes - NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is about to begin a dangerous descent into Mars' massive Victoria Crater. The trip is worth the risk because exposed materials in the crater's depths could yield important information about the history of water on Mars. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2383&mode=thread&order
g Life - A class of especially hardy microbes that live in some of the harshest Earthly environments could flourish on cold Mars and other chilly planets, according to a research team of astronomers and microbiologists. See http://www.astrobiology.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=21095. Note: This article is from late 2006.
g Intelligence - Quote of the Day: "And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space.../...'cos there's bugger-all down here on Earth" — Eric Idle, 'Galaxy Song', Monty Python's Meaning of Life
g Message - Epicurus, in the fourth century BC, believed that the universe contained other worlds like our own, and since his time there has been considerable debate whether extraterrestrial life exists and might communicate with us. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See http://mysite.verizon.net/wsbainbridge/dl/ceti.htm.
g Cosmicus - How do crew aboard the International Space Station take spacewalks? See http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/eva/outside.html.
g Learning - How are key concepts of astrobiology treated in science fiction? See http://www.ibiblio.org/astrobiology/index.php?page=lesson05. Note: This article is from 2001 and intended to be used as part of a classroom lesson.
g Imagining - Book alert: An abundance of lavish full-color illustrations and detailed black-and-white sketches dominate Wayne Douglas Barlowe's “Expedition: Being and Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV,” a fictional account of a 21st-century exploratory space flight to the imaginary planet Darwin IV. Sent along as the mission's artist, Barlowe describes his "excursions" to survey Darwin IV and the unusual animals he encountered: creatures like the monopodalians, who pogo-stick across a barren, icy landscape, or the winged but flightless Stripewings that are in "evolutionary flux." Numerous "observed" details, such as the length of a Darwinian day (26.7 hours) and the feeding, hunting and mating behaviors of various creatures, help maintain the illusion of realism and immediacy such a first-person narrative demands. See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0894806297/ref=pd_sim_b_3/102-0951717-6762506?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance for more reviews and a sneak peak at the book.
g Aftermath - The recent brouhaha over whether there’s compelling evidence for life on Mars offers a stark lesson about research life: A major scientific discovery is a temptress as beguiling, and as dangerous, as the Sirens that beckoned Ulysses, says SETI’s senior astronomer. See http://www.seti.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=ktJ2J9MMIsE&b=194993&ct=567827.

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