Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Space makes disease bacteria more virulent, mathematics’ role in alien communication and trusting our government with first contact

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 Abodes - New measurements reveal Neptune's south pole is warmer than the rest of the planet, as expected. But it's still frigid. See article.
g Life - Recent mass extinctions in North America were caused by one or more extraterrestrial objects - comets or meteorites - that exploded over the Earth or slammed into it, triggering catastrophic climate change, a research team posits. See article.
g Message - Since there is a general agreement that the laws of nature are the same everywhere in our universe, it follows that mathematics must be universal and therefore it must be the same for every intelligent being in the universe. So, a language for SETI communication based on mathematics can be constructed. But the fact that mathematics has turned out to be so strictly entangled with material reality also establishes very sharp limitations to its efficacy for our purposes and the need of an integration with (at least) a pictorial language. See article.
g Cosmicus - Space flight has been shown to change the way disease bacteria behave, making them much more virulent. This has worrying implications for astronauts whose immune systems are already weakened in space. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site courtesy of NASA: “Future Flight Design”. Written for grades 3-7, kids can design air transportation and aircraft systems.
g Imagining - An early “Star Trek” alien is the Thasians, who serve a deux ex machina role in one episode. The Thasians apparently are a noncorporeal life form that gave a human child incredible powers of telekinesis. Such capabilities, as exhibited by the child (now a 17-year-old teenager) appear to stem from within his own physical being, however. The Thasians themselves also are dependent on the physical reality of a spacecraft for traveling beyond their planet. Of course, how a noncorporeal life form might exist is beyond our physical science, though one might suspect it is an organized pattern of electrical impulses, somehow held together and organized without use of a physical platform (such as our brain cells) — though their powers can be transferred to such a platform, as occurs with the boy. Most likely the Thasians did not evolve as noncorporeal life forms but instead, being eons ahead of us in technology, rely on machines (using teleportation-like technology) to do their work; their own beings might be interfaced with such machines so a mere concentrated thought can command it. The Thasians, thus feeling encumbered by physical form, shifted to another dimension — again, more fiction than reality — where the very nature of that space allows the beings (electrical patterns) to remain organized, and perhaps better able to communicate with their machines. Of course, too little was said about the Thasians in the episode, though the boy did note that the Thasians do not “feel” or “touch” in the same way that humans do.
g Aftermath - Would dutiful American citizens trust the government to handle first contact with extraterrestrials and rush to get information to the public? See article. Note: This article is from 1999.