Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hydroxyl in Venus’ atmosphere and exosociology

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 - What is the habitable zone for the nearby red dwarf GJ 1105?
g Abodes - Hydroxyl has been found in the atmosphere of Venus. It's the first time the molecule has been spotted on another planet and will help scientists understand the workings of Venus's dense atmosphere. See article.
g Life - Life on Earth may have begun much earlier than the accepted date of about 3.5 billion years ago, according to a study of bacteria colonies near Australia's western tip. See article.
Intelligence - Quote of the Day: “… the profound and inextinguishable longing for better and more fortunate conditions than those which the Earth offers us. Indeed we do dream of a higher civilization, but we would also like to come know it as something more than the hope for a distant future. We tell ourselves that what the future can sometime bring about on Earth must even now, in view of the infiniteness of time and space, have already become a reality somewhere.” – Kurd Lasswitz
g Message - When scientists get together to talk about extraterrestrial life, they certainly don't imagine little green men. In fact, our first contact with life beyond our planet probably will involve a microbe. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - NASA has achieved a photographic first. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of Phoenix, hanging below its parachute, as the lander descended through the Martian atmosphere. See article.
g Learning - By combining ideas and bringing different specialists into one room to collaborate, the UCLA Center for Astrobiology is working to answer the timeless questions about the origins of life and whether humans are alone in the universe. See article.
g Imagining - When science fiction writers set out to design a world, they usually take care that their physics and astronomy conforms to known science by reading a few physics and astronomy books. But when designing aliens, anything goes, it seems! The problem appears to be that the literature of biology is simply unknown in the SF world. Mention Freeman Dyson or Robert Forward, and most hard SF readers and writers will know whom you are talking about. But mention Steven Vogel or Colin Pennycuick, and you are likely to be rewarded with polite bafflement. Here's a list of books that'll give you a solid grounding in biology. See article.
g Aftermath - Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence depends as much upon social support for the project as upon appropriate engineering design and upon the actual existence of a nearby extrasolar civilization. The results of a sociological survey of 1,465 American college students provide the first detailed analysis of the social and ideological factors that influence support for CETI, thereby suggesting ways that support might be increased. Linked to the most idealistic goals of the space program, notably interplanetary colonization, enthusiasm for CETI is little affected by attitudes toward technology or militarism. Few sciences or scholarly fields encourage CETI, with the exceptions of anthropology and astronomy. Support is somewhat greater among men than among women, but the sex difference is far less than in attitudes toward space flight in general. Evangelical Protestantism, represented by the "Born Again" movement, strongly discourages support for CETI. Just as exobiology begins with an understanding of terrestrial biology, exosociology on the question of how interstellar contact can be achieved should begin with serious sociological study of factors operating on our own world. See article.