Monday, August 13, 2007

Dust ring around Epsilon Eridani, largest extrasolar planet to date discovered, off the couch and into the lab

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 - The discovery of a ring of dust particles around a nearby star, Epsilon Eridani, appears to signify a Solar System very similar to our own. See article. Note: This article is from 1998.
g Abodes - Astronomers have found the largest extrasolar planet to date. The planet, dubbed TrES-4, is about 70 percent bigger than Jupiter but has a very low density. In fact, TrES-4 is much larger relative to its mass than astronomers had thought possible, and studying the planet will provide new insight into how planets form and behave. See article.
g Message - Should we modify the Drake Equation to account for civilizations which actually engage in deliberate interstellar transmission? See article.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: "...and there’s to be no end of all my adventures!" — Alice from "Through the Looking-Glass "
g Learning - 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.
g Imagining - Americans love science in their movies and TV shows, yet recent reports indicate we are losing our scientific dominance to the rest of the world. Can science-themed entertainment get Americans off the couch and into the lab? See article. Note: This story is from 2004.
g Aftermath - Donald E. Tarter, a consultant in space policy and technology assessment, makes a persuasive case for developing the protocols and technology to reply to an extraterrestrial signal before news of the discovery is made public, in his article, “Advocating an Immediate Response.” Delay could be costly as technologically advanced fringe groups or ambitious nations could attempt to score a propaganda victory by being the first to reply, creating a mixed and perhaps embarrassing first message. This could be avoided by settling on a quick and simple message to let the extraterrestrial source know that we had received their message. See article. Note: This report is from 1996.