Sunday, May 11, 2008

Natural selection’s variable speeds and simulating contact between two cultures in real time

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 - Washington Post science writer Marc Kaufman was online recently to discuss the discovery of what scientists believe may have been hot springs on the planet Mars, a place where primitive kinds of life could have thrived. Here’s a transcript.
g Life - Countering the widespread view of evolution as a process played out over the course of eons, evolutionary biologists have shown that natural selection can turn on a dime - within months - as a population's needs change. In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, the scientists found that natural selection dramatically changed direction over a very short time, within a single generation, favoring first longer and then shorter hind legs. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Message - Since there is a general agreement that the laws of nature are the same everywhere in our universe, it follows that mathematics must be universal and therefore it must be the same for every intelligent being in the universe. So, a language for SETI communication based on mathematics can be constructed. But the fact that mathematics has turned out to be so strictly entangled with material reality also establishes very sharp limitations to its efficacy for our purposes and the need of an integration with (at least) a pictorial language. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a great educational tool for teaching astrobiology and various principles of science: COTI. COTI is an educational experiment in creation — students design an integrated world, alien life form and culture, and simulate contact with a future human society. One team constructs a solar system, a world and its ecology, an alien life form and its culture, basing each step on the previous one and utilizing the principles of science as a guide to imagination. The other team designs a future human colony, planetary or spacefaring, "creating and evolving" its culture as an exercise in cultural structure, dynamics and adaptation. Through a structured system of progressive revelation, the teams then simulate — and experience — contact between the two cultures in real time, exploring the problems and possibilities involved in inter-cultural encounters. See article.

No comments: