Friday, October 19, 2007

Brink of discovering a second Earth-like planet, universes too simple to allow emergence of life and transmission of material artifacts

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 - Astronomers may be on the brink of discovering a second Earth-like planet, a find that would add fresh impetus to the search for extraterrestrial life, according to a leading science journal. See article.
g Life - As bizarre as it may seem, the sample jars brimming with cloudy, reddish rainwater in Godfrey Louis's laboratory in southern India may hold, well, aliens. See article.
g Intelligence - It is now 40 years since Brandon Carter began thinking about how the preconditions necessary for human existence might bias the view we have of the universe. Carter showed that fairly simple changes to the laws of the physics yield universes that are too simple to allow the emergence of life. For example, you can't even alter the number of spatial dimensions since planetary orbits are only stable in three dimensions. Our Universe seems to exhibit quite a few examples of such fine-tuning and many of these are discussed in Paul Davies’s book. One way to explain these coincidences is to propose that there are many "Universes" and that, naturally, we find ourselves living in one of the, presumably very rare, Universes that just happens to be life-friendly. This idea is called cosmological anthropic selection. Read more.
g Message - If extraterrestrial life and intelligence exist, and if these ETI have ever engaged in, or presently are engaging in, interstellar exploration or communication, this most likely will involve the transmission of material artifacts. Some evidence of this activity may be apparent from within the confines of the solar system and thus could be detected by a suitable observational effort. See article.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: "Since, in the long run, every planetary society will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring - not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive." — Carl Sagan
g Learning - Here’s something fun for the kids: An “Alien Life” word find. It’s based on the Science for Kids article. Could alien life exist in the form of dancing specks of dust?
g Imagining - Science fiction authors produce a lot of very strange critters. In the desperate dash to be different, many go way overboard to invent fantastic, outlandish species unlike anything anyone has ever seen. It’s an admirable expression of their artistic abilities, but there’s an inherent problem: They almost always lose the reader along the way. Sure, it sounds ultra-cool to have a whole herd of 80-foot quasi-limbed orb-stasis beings, but unless you draw me a picture of these things, the reader often has no idea what you’re talking about. However, if you write that your alien has four wings, 10 eyes and looks a little like a kangaroo, the reader is right there with you. Most readers need at least something familiar to draw on for their imagination, or they get lost. See article.
g Aftermath - At some point we may discover intelligent alien life. Upon finding clear evidence that intelligent life exists and that we could conceivably communicate with them on their planet, what should we do and what would we do? See article.

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