Thursday, May 01, 2008

Photosynthesis on other worlds and AI on Mars

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 brown dwarf LP 944-020?
g Abodes - The jarosite group minerals have received increasing attention since the discovery of jarosite on the martian surface by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. See article.
g Life - Scientists studying the potential for life on extrasolar planets are looking at the light spectrum to determine what kind of photosynthesis plants might use on other planets. Plants on distant worlds may look very different than our own depending on the light from their planet's parent star. See article.
g Message - When the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft were launched in 1977, they each included a gold-plated phonograph record (a "golden record") of natural sounds, greetings in human voices, and a variety of music. The record cover has symbolic instructions that show how to use and understand the record, though scientists still debate whether other civilizations will be able to decipher them. Click here for info on Voyager’s golden record and here for an explanation of the record cover diagram. See article.
g Cosmicus - Artificial intelligence is giving a boost to Mars Express as it searches for signs of past or present life on Mars. See article.
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? These are the questions which motivate this article’s title: "Minds and Millennia: The Psychology of Interstellar Communication." See article.

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