Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How Earthshine helps find other planets and life’s markers

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 - Earthshine – the dim glow from sunlight bouncing off the Earth, and reflected back from the Moon's surface – may aid in the search for life on other planets, say scientists. It may also give insights into climate change on Earth. However, experts are split on how useful a tool Earthshine may be. See article.
g Life - A working group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is trying to figure out what life’s markers might look like across a wide range of biological types. The most obvious signature for life itself is the presence of unusual combinations of things. A world without life shouldn’t, for example, give us strong signatures in both methane and oxygen simultaneously. See article.
g Learning - Science fiction is often perceived as a “fringe” form of entertainment that excites the socially challenged. This misperception detracts from the critical, scientific and interpretive nature of the genre that can be directed into science teaching at school and university levels as an innovative way of exploring the cultural background, politics, leitmotif and themes of society, science and their operation. One example is the “alien” theme in SF; it is perceptually one of the driving factors in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Such a topic can become an introduction to current technology, the motives and politics of science and the sociological implications inherent in a confrontation with the ideal of man’s uniqueness in the cosmos. When applied to SETI, SF engenders a constructive convergence in studies such as biological determinism, the evolution of life, communication, interstellar travel and methods of contact, thus enriching the consideration of possible life in the cosmos. Adopting elements of SF in lifelong learning therefore enables informed, imaginative reflection and debate that educates, trains and instructs, broadening the potential of students and their future roles by invoking an analysis of vital public, scientific and humanistic fields. See article.

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