Saturday, August 25, 2007

Detecting Europa’s oceans, estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization and gravity’s effect on inner ear

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 spotted a dusty disk in a four-star solar system that could be home to a planet in the making. See article.
g Abodes - New imaging detectors that can withstand the harsh radiation of space could be used to confirm the presence of lakes or oceans on Jupiter's moon Europa. If Europa does harbor an ocean beneath its icy crust, the moon might be one of the best places to look for life in our Solar System. See article.
g Message - Estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization is a multi-dimensional challenge. The answer, according to two scientists at the Hungarian Astronomical Association, is less like an equation, and more like a matrix. See article. Note: This article is from 2003
g Cosmicus - Space-travelers face a topsy-turvy world where up and down is nowhere to be found. Sensors in your inner ear signal to the brain not only that you’re not in Kansas anymore but the familiar tug of Earth’s one-gravity is missing. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: Who Can Live Here? Students explore the limits of life on Earth to extend their beliefs about life to include its possibility on other worlds.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology/cultures? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for C.J. Cherryh’s series “The Foreigner Universe,” which includes “Foreigner” (1994), “Invader” (1995) and “Inheritor” (1996). The series traces our dealings with the proud Atevi from first contact, as the single ambassador they will allow on planet tries to prevent war.
g Aftermath - Here’s a great educational tool for teaching astrobiology and various principles of science: COTI. COTI is an educational experiment in creation — students design an integrated world, alien life form and culture, and simulate contact with a future human society. One team constructs a solar system, a world and its ecology, an alien life form and its culture, basing each step on the previous one and utilizing the principles of science as a guide to imagination. The other team designs a future human colony, planetary or spacefaring, "creating and evolving" its culture as an exercise in cultural structure, dynamics and adaptation. Through a structured system of progressive revelation, the teams then simulate — and experience — contact between the two cultures in real time, exploring the problems and possibilities involved in inter-cultural encounters. See article.