Friday, January 25, 2008

Messages we’ve already sent to aliens and ’Entering Space’

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 new sky survey may double the number of known extrasolar planets. The MARVELS survey, a component of the recently announced Sloan Digital Sky Survey III, is scheduled to begin mid-year and will last until mid-2014. See article.
g Life - Earthquakes don't always mean death and destruction - at least for the microbes deep in the crust. Regular rumblings could be what enables them to stay alive, and maybe even Martian bugs, too. See article.
g Intelligence - Improving sleep can enhance memory and intelligence, a U.S. author says in his book REM Illumination Memory Consolidation. See article.
g Message - While some scientists cautiously plan for ways to reply to extraterrestrial transmissions, others haven't waited for a signal to start talking. Sending messages from Earth into space to announce the existence of the human race is somewhat rare and controversial. Digital transmissions have been beamed into space from radio telescopes, and four spacecraft currently leaving the solar system bear messages for anyone who finds them. See article.
g Cosmicus - Book review: Humans are not native to the Earth. So posits astronautical engineer Bob Zubrin in the opening of “Entering Space.” We're native to just a small sliver of it, the spot where our species originated in tropical Kenya. We set out from that paradise about 50,000 years ago, north into "the teeth of the Ice Age," and all the ground we've gained since then has been thanks to our tenacity and our tools. Zubrin reasons that it's time we cover a little more ground. Written with a boyish enthusiasm and formidable techie know-how, “Entering Space” urges us to realize "the feasibility, the necessity, and the promise" of becoming a space-faring civilization, of colonizing our own solar system and beyond. And Zubrin, author of the influential and widely acclaimed “The Case for Mars,” knows his stuff - NASA adapted his plans for near-term human exploration of Mars, and Carl Sagan gave the author no less credit: "Bob Zubrin really, nearly alone, changed our thinking on this issue." “Entering Space” plots the second and third phases of humanity's course--now that we've mastered our own planet, Zubrin says we must first look to settling our solar system (beginning with Mars) and then to the galaxy beyond. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a list of books about astrobiology, courtesy of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

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