Monday, October 22, 2007

Stars that may bear Earth-like planets, Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes and alien signals passing through you

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 Stars - While humans eventually may be able to colonize any star system by building space habitats, many people today prefer to dream about visiting an Earth-type planet or to communicate with intelligent Earth-type lifeforms. Currently, our only guide to what type of star is likely to host an Earth-type planet suitable for human habitation without special environmental protection is our own Sun, Sol. A look at the map of nearby stars, however, quickly reveals that Sol is not like most stars in the Solar neighborhood. See article.
g Abodes - Newly assembled radar images provide the best view yet of hydrocarbon lakes and seas at Titan's north pole. Other images reveal lakes at the moon's south pole. Scientists are hoping that by studying Titan's unique environment they will gain insights into processes on the early Earth. See article.
g Life - Thirty years ago this month, researchers identified the unique domain of life known as archaea. These organisms inhabit some of the harshest environments on Earth, and astrobiologists study many of them as analogs for how life might survive on other planets. See article.
g Intelligence - How do neurons work? See article.
g Message - What are the chances that an alien signal has been sent our way just at the right moment to splash upon our antennas during that brief interval? If the extraterrestrials beam their broadcasts to the whole galaxy (or at least a big chunk of it), the chances are 100 percent. See article.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: “Heading, sir?” “Out there ... thataway.” — Sulu and Kirk, “Star Trek – The Motion Picture”
g Imagining - Book alert: What would life on other planets look like? Forget the little green men, alien life is likely to be completely unrecognizable - we haven’t even discovered all the life on our own planet. The visionary “Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life", by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, offers some of the most radical but scientifically accurate thinking on the possibility of life on other planets ever conceived. Using broad principles of Earthly biology and expanding on them laterally, Cohen and Stewart examine what could be out there. Redefining our whole concept of what ‘life’ is, they ask whether aliens could live on the surface of a star, in the vacuum of space or beneath the ice of a frozen moon. And whether life could exist without carbon or DNA – or even without matter at all. They also look at ‘celebrity aliens’ from books and films – most of which are biologically impossible. Jack Cohen is an ‘alien consultant’ to many writers, advising what an alien could and couldn’t look like. (E.T. go home – you do not pass the test). But this book is as much about the latest discoveries in Earthly biology as well as life on other planets. It’s a serious yet entertaining science book.
g Aftermath - Could humanity ever relate to an alien species? Consider the questioning context of these online speculations about why "Star Trek is human centered?" The latter is an interesting question, possibly creating a situation dealing with a prejudice on the behalf of the writers and producers. However, would a series completely dedicated to another species, such as the Romulans, be successful in a television market? Is it possible that the reasons it wouldn’t be might indicate humanity may care little about an alien species other than as a potential threat? See article.

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