Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cosmic train wreck, crew-carrying spacecraft and ‘First Contact, Sort of’

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 have discovered a chaotic scene unlike any witnessed before in a cosmic "train wreck" between giant galaxy clusters. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and optical telescopes revealed a dark matter core that was mostly devoid of galaxies, which may pose problems for current theories of dark matter behavior. See article.
g Abodes - An international team of astronomers have announced the discovery of a new extrasolar planet in the constellation of Hercules. It is the largest known exoplanet and is about 70 percent bigger than Jupiter. See article.
g Life - Astronauts weren't the only living things aboard the space shuttle Endeavour that landed safely last week – a precious payload of germs, grown and frozen in zero-gravity, also returned to Earth. See article.
g Message - It's possible to split up the methods of finding extraterrestrial life into two categories; humans trying to discover extraterrestrial life, and humans trying to be discovered by extraterrestrial life. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - A private space firm with orbital aspirations has revamped its plans for a crew-carrying spacecraft. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of lessons, designed for at-risk students: “The Plausibility of Interstellar Communication and Related Phenomena Depicted in Science Fiction Literature and the Movies.” The curriculum has four major objectives: first, to educate students to develop concepts about the proximity of our solar system in relation to other probable solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy; second, to give students the opportunity to use these concepts to evaluate the plausibility of interstellar communication depicted in science fiction literature and movies; third, to create an opportunity for students not only to look out on the universe but to turn it inward to look at the world, their own society, and themselves as individuals; and fourth, an objective that will be integrated with all of the others is to give students to opportunity to learn and/or sharpen skills in: using the scientific method, research, reading, writing, collaboration, discussion and in critical thinking. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Carol Car and Karen Haber’s short story "First Contact, Sort of" appearing in the anthology “The Ultimate Alien” (edited by Keith R. A. DeCandido, John Betancourt and Byron Preiss; published by Dell in 1995).
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We feel that the problem of extraterrestrial life is one of the most important questions raised in science to the present. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising form the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See article. Note: This paper is from 1999.

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