Thursday, October 18, 2007

Prospects of finding Earth-like planets, what life might be like on other planets and comets seeding life on Earth

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 - A newly published review outlines the prospects of finding Earth-like, habitable planets around distant stars using current planet-hunting techniques. See article.
g Life - What could life on other planets be like? Here’s a Web page that looks at the extremities of similarity and difference, from biochemical make-up to major substantial and macrostructural differences.
g Intelligence - What do modern explorations reveal about alien life and the role that humans play in the story of the cosmos? Join an internationally recognized planetary scientist for a lively discussion of recent findings in astrobiology. Find out what this research tells us about life in the universe, as well as our own biases and assumptions around our place in it! See article. Note: This piece is from 2005.
g Message - Here’s a neat Web site: “Interstellar Messaging.” You’ll find discussion, history and real-world examples of mankind's methods and ongoing attempts to communicate with extraterrestrials. See article.
g Cosmicus - A new robot is demonstrating technologies that may one day help make human lunar outposts possible. A field experiment at the end of the year will test the robot's ability to maneuver and drill in complete darkness. See article.
g Learning - Over 2,000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Lucretius speculated about life on other worlds. American astronomer Percival Lowell (1855-1916) believed that Mars was inhabited by intelligent beings, who were building canals to save their dying world, and he wrote the imaginative book “Mars: As The Abode of Life” (1908). Today, the search for alien life is a real scientific endeavor with diverse research areas. Here’s a fairly good list of books about this science, called astrobiology.
g Imagining - Many problems faced the development of astrobiology as a credible science when it was first named in 1958. The most basic of these problems was skepticism on the part of many scientists of the time. The ideas of astrobiology touched too closely with science fiction to be considered seriously. The idea of life on Mars was definitely science fiction: H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" and Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" attested to that. And Gregory Benford and David Brin in “Heart of the Comet” have since addressed the idea of life being seeded on Earth by comets. Why would anyone take these ideas seriously as science? See article.
g Aftermath - It is sometimes said that the best form of advertising is education. But what products would our global marketplace tolerate at the borders of an encounter with another, perhaps far different civilization? To get some perspective, an expert entertains the question of how to advertise our presence to a more universal demographic. See article. Note: This article came out in November 2004.