Saturday, September 29, 2007

Where are the habitable planets, life that doesn't need water and ’Beyond 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 - In the vast real estate of space, where are the habitable planets? In this lecture, Vikki Meadows describes the clues that tell us if an extrasolar planet would be a good place to call home. See article.
g Life - You know the cliche, wherever we find water here on Earth, we find life. But what if the environment is really hostile - so hostile that any living creature would almost never see water? And even when there was water, they were constantly being blasted with radiation. Amazingly, there's a microbe out there, Deinococcus geothermalis, that can handle some of the harshest environments on the planet - favored habitats include nuclear power plants. Scientists once suspected that microbes like this might have evolved on Mars. Nope, they're homegrown. See article.
g Message - Book alert: In “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” author Brian McConnell examines the science and technology behind the search for intelligent life in space, from the physics of inter-stellar laser and radio communication to information theory and linguistics. If you've ever wondered whether it really would be possible to communicate with other civilizations, you'll want to read this book. For more reviews and sample chapters, see article.
g Cosmicus - If aspiring space tourist Richard Garriott wants advice on living in orbit, he can ask his father, a former NASA astronaut who spent two months aboard the first U.S. space station 24 years ago. 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 - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Harlan Ellison’s (ed.) “Medea: Harlan's World” (1985), a symposium on alien creation.
g Aftermath - With humanity now on the verge of being capable to leave its home world, Earth, scientists have begun to wrestle with the consequences of this next great journey; of the social impact humanity will have upon discovering life elsewhere, be it fossil, bacterial or an intelligent civilization. See article.

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