Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life and atmospheres, walking on asteroids and what it takes to enter the space sciences

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 - Mapping what gases comprised Earth’s atmosphere during its history, two scientists propose that by looking for similar atmospheric compositions on other worlds, scientists will be able to determine if that planet has life on it, and if so, that life’s evolutionary stage. See article.
g Life - By creating an alternative life chemistry in the lab, astrobiologist Steven Benner hopes to uncover a formula for alien microbes. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Intelligence - Neuroeconomics merges methods from neuroscience and economics to better understand how the human brain generates decisions in economic and social contexts. Neuroeconomics is part of the general quest for microfoundations – in this case, the microfoundation of individual decision-making in social contexts. The economic model of individual decision-making is based on three concepts – the action set, preferences, and beliefs. Economists assume that an individual will choose his preferred action for a given set of available actions and a given belief about the states of the world and the other players' actions. Neuroeconomics provides a microfoundation for individual beliefs, preferences, and behavior; it does so by examining the brain processes associated with the formation of beliefs, the perception of the action set, and the actual choice. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Message - How do we search for life in the universe? From sending probes to the planets to discovering new worlds, find out how we are looking for alien life. See article.
g Cosmicus - A new tether system may help astronauts walk on the surface of asteroids. The technology would help them safely perform experiments to determine the role of comets and asteroids in the origin of life. See article.
g Learning - The field of astronomy and space science must be the most fascinating job in the universe, but it does require some outstanding abilities - above average intelligence, keen analytical ability and good programming skills. Perhaps the most essential ingredient, however, is curiosity, a scientific bent of mind and the ability to search out answers. See article.
g Imagining - From historical myths and legends to fanciful science-fiction tales of little green men and the uncertain possibility of life beyond our planet, Aliens have been a pop-culture phenomenon for centuries now, being portrayed as both harmless curious visitors to threatening monsters with aspirations to take over our planet. See article.
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? See article.

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