Thursday, August 16, 2007

Phoenix Mission, would aliens reveal their presence and carbon-based life forms

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 - NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer has spotted an amazingly long comet-like tail behind a star streaking through space at extraordinary speeds. See article.
g Abodes - In part one of this two-part essay, Steven Soter explains that planetary systems, including our own, hold as many planets as they can, and adding more planets may make them unstable. See article.
g Life - A Phoenix has reappeared at the SETI Institute, this time in the form of NASA's next Mars lander, which has the involvement of Dr. John Marshall in the science team. NASA's Phoenix Mission is headed to Mars to look for water, and carbon compounds that could signify life on Mars. Like its namesake mythological bird, NASA's Phoenix Mission rises from remnants of its predecessors. It will use many components of a spacecraft originally built for a 2001 Mars lander mission, which was kept in careful storage after that mission was cancelled. See article.
g Intelligence - A study of autistic children has bolstered evidence that people who identify better with others are more prone to contagious yawning, Japanese researchers say. See article.
g Message -Would anyone deliberately beam high-powered signals into space? Can we assume that extraterrestrial societies would broadcast in ways that would mark their location as plainly as a flag on a golf green? See article.
g Cosmicus - An international group of space scientists and engineers are in Svalbard, Norway, field-testing instruments for future Mars missions. See article.
g Learning - Here’s an interesting classroom activity: “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. See article.
g Imagining - Will Star Trek’s carbon-based life forms be the norm for alien chemistry? See article.
g Aftermath - I offer the following Web site entry on “exopolitics” only as a basis for us to think about how people might react once we know an extraterrestrial civilization exists. Certainly many will give ufology more credence and make fantastical conclusions based upon images in the popular media. Question: How do we counteract this now? Obviously we want people discussing the topic of “exopolitics,” even if it’s in a vacuum. But how do we move beyond silly paranormal notions?