Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Planet formation distances, time lags in alien communication and islands in the sky

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 determined how far away from its hot stellar neighbors a star must be if a swirling disk of dust around it is to stand a chance of forming planets. See article.
g Abodes - Planet formation is a story with a well-known beginning and end, but how its middle plays out has been an enigma to scientists - until now. See article.
g Life - Female beetles mate to quench their thirst, literally. See article.
g Message - For more than 80 years, we’ve been sending radio (and eventually television) transmissions into space, allowing anyone in space to hear war reports from London, “I Love Lucy” reruns and our latest election results. So wouldn’t hearing aliens be as simple as turning on the radio? Here’s why not. Note: this article is from early 2004.
g Cosmicus - The scientific foundations of the International Space Station are about a century old, but the dream of "islands in the sky" - bubbles of earthly life held aloft far above the ground - has been with us since our collective childhood. See article. Note: this article is from 1999.
g Learning - When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 143 years ago, the scientists of the day argued over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution's truth beyond reasonable doubt. Today that battle has been won everywhere — except in the public imagination. Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as "intelligent design" to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of “Darwin on Trial,” admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a "wedge" for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye’s “Treaty at Doona,” published by Ace in 1994.
g Aftermath - If we hear from ET, not only can we expect his civilization to be an old one with a great time lag in correspondence, a SETI astronomer says. Could this limit the impact of extraterrestrial contact upon humanity? See article. Note: This article is from December 2001.