Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Models of Earth-size planets, preparing for an Earth-bound asteroid and would we know alien life to be life at all?

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 - U.S. scientists have developed a model of Earth-size planets that astronomers might discover in the near future. See article.
g Message - How might we detect an extraterrestrial messenger probe already in the solar system? See article. Note: This article is from 1983.
g Cosmicus - ESA is developing a new mission to study an asteroid up close, and maybe even change its trajectory. The mission could yield clues about how we could prepare for a dangerous, Earth-bound asteroid if one is ever discovered. See article.
g Learning - Kurt Fischer and his colleagues looked at the revolution in brain scanning, genetics, and other biological technologies and decided that most teachers and students weren’t getting much benefit from them. Brain scans are now available to watch what’s going on when someone is learning — or not learning. Finding genes that are involved in learning disabilities is a hot area. Why, they asked, aren’t the powers of such technologies helping teachers in classrooms? See article.
g Imagining - The questions of what alien life will be like is a more than just an issue for science fiction enthusiasts. For those involved with the fledging science of astrobiology, this is a central issue: After all, if something is life “not as we know it,” how, in fact, would we know it to be life at all? See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: As many Earthlings already know —including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience — our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that Brian McConnell’s “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” an introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life, begins with some of the details behind the University of California-Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it.

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