Thursday, November 08, 2007

How life evolved as climate changed, exovegetation and experimental airplane for Mars

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 - In examining spectra, we have moved from the very small, from little waves and atoms, to the very large, to stars, and then down in scale to planets. But our Sun and planetary system came from "out there," among the stars. To know ourselves, therefore, we must understand the stars and their natures. See article.
g Abodes - Geologists have determined when Earth may have first supported an oxygen-rich atmosphere similar to that of today. The study provides clues about how life on Earth has evolved alongside our planet's changing climate. See article.
g Life - NAI's Virtual Planetary Laboratory Team have explored the possibility of detecting exovegetation on terrestrial planets orbiting M stars. They estimated the red shift of this surface feature using leaf optical property spectra with a three photon photosynthetic scheme. The authors have produced a model wherein a pigment-derived surface signature such as exovegetation could be detected, but would be dependent upon the extent of the vegetation on the surface, cloud cover, and viewing angle. See article.
g Message - The Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts, or SETA, is about delineating between the artificial and the real. In the case of radio detection from other stellar systems, the artificial is what is labeled the real signal that intelligent communications are on-air. See article. Note: This article is a couple of years old.
g Cosmicus - U.S. engineers have long wanted to fold up an airplane inside a rocket and send it on a mission to cruise through the atmosphere of Mars. They now have a new potential customer for the concept: the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. See article.
g Aftermath - If we find other civilizations, what will we say to them? Crafting a message that represents Earth and humanity and can be understood by another life form is no minor endeavor. SETI Institute psychologist Douglas Vakoch has been charged with this formidable task, and has enlisted the help of mathematicians, artists, astronomers and anthropologists. Hear the messages he helped compose and learn about the thinking behind.

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