Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dawn readied for asteroid belt, detecting an extraterrestrial messenger probe already in the solar system and what imagined aliens say about humans

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 - An international team of astronomers might have discovered the missing link in the evolution of the so-called magnetic cataclysmic variable stars. They determined the spin and orbital periods of the binary star Paloma. They found that the Paloma system has a weird way of rotating that fills the gap between two classes of magnetic cataclysmic stars. Their results will soon be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. See article.
g Abodes - The Dawn spacecraft has been delivered to Cape Canaveral and is ready to begin its mission to the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. By studying these targets, the mission aims to uncover information about planetary formation. See article.
g Life - Philosophers wrestling with the big questions of life are no longer alone. Now scientists are struggling to define life as they manipulate it, look for it on other planets, and even create it in test tubes. See article.
g Message - How might we detect an extraterrestrial messenger probe already in the solar system? See article. Note: This article is from 1983.
g Cosmicus - "Humanity will not remain on the Earth forever, but in the pursuit of light and space will at first timidly penetrate beyond the limits of the atmosphere, and then will conquer all the space around the Sun." - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
g Learning - Northrop Grumman Foundation is sponsoring weightlessness flights for teachers. The purpose is to expose teachers to weightlessness such that they can bring the experience back to their students. See article.
g Imagining - Looking for some classic science fiction alien movies? Here’s a fairly exhaustive list, with brief explanations of each. Now in how each one the aliens really are just mythical monsters that play on human psychology (specifically fear or revulsion). Such films really say less about the evolution of potential extraterrestrial lifeforms and civilizations than about the evolution of human beings and our culture. In fact, here’s an essay that examines a specific detail of that notion: “An Exploration of the Relationship Between Science Fiction Film and the UFO Mythology”.
g Aftermath - The good news is that polls continue to show that between one and two-thirds of the public thinks that extraterrestrial life exists. The weird news is that a similar fraction think that some of it is visiting Earth. See article.