Friday, April 04, 2008

ET’s message in a bottle and ‘Beyond UFOs’

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 space, no one can hear you scream ‑ which is no bad thing, because scientists have discovered that it is a lot filthier than they thought. See article.
g Abodes - More than 250 planets have been found orbiting distant stars. Most of them are “hot Jupiters,” giant planets orbiting close to their stars, unlikely places for life to take hold. NASA’s Kepler mission hopes to find habitable planets like Earth. Or, perhaps, to discover that there aren’t many of them around to find. See article
g Life - Looking for evidence of life on Mars or other planets? Finding cellulose microfibers would be the next best thing to a close encounter, according to new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. See article.
g Intelligence - No one knows exactly when the "first Americans" populated this continent nor who they were, but scientists exploring ancient caves in Oregon have found evidence that they must have arrived from Asia at least 1,200 years earlier than anyone had thought - and some say long before that. See article.
g Message - A recent study suggests it is more energy efficient to communicate across interstellar space by sending physical material — a sort of message in a bottle — than beams of electromagnetic radiation. Solid matter can hold more information and journey farther than radio waves, which disperse as they travel. See article.
g Cosmicus - Admittedly, at least for now, the idea of a beanstalk-like space elevator connecting Earth and space is a stretch. See article.
g Learning - Book alert: Few terms in the space vocabulary are as polarizing as this three-letter acronym: UFO. For some, it represents not just Unidentified Flying Objects, but a virtual universe of extraterrestrial visitations, alien abductions, and—of course—a vast web of government and multinational conspiracies to deny their presence. To others, it’s a symbol of hoaxes and fantasies or, at best, wishful thinking. For those in the latter camp, there might be some trepidation to pick up a book titled “Beyond UFOs.” Rest assured, though: despite the presence of that three-letter acronym, this book is actually a solid, factually-based look at the science of astrobiology and the prospects for life—intelligent or otherwise—elsewhere in the universe. See article. For related story, see “E.T.? An intriguing possibility in "Beyond UFOs".
g Imagining - Think of your favorite alien on TV or in the movies. Do you have the image in mind? I'd bet that your alien is pretty darn smart. However, despite what we see in “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” the author of “The Science of Aliens” doesn't expect intelligence to be an inevitable result of evolution on other worlds. See article.

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