Friday, June 06, 2008

Hairy blobs and how advanced technical societies might make their presence known

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 star Epsilon Eridani?
g Life - They look like something out of a 1950s B-movie. Colonies of fossilized creatures, dubbed "hairy blobs", have been discovered in one of the harshest environments on Earth. The find may turn out to be crucial for spotting signs of extraterrestrial life in rocks on other planets. See article.
g Message - Interstellar transmissions via energy-markers (photons) or matter-markers (probes) appear to be energetically indistinguishable alternatives for advanced technical societies. Since only Type II and Type III civilizations realistically can afford beacons or star probe technology, alternative distinguishability criteria suggest the possible superiority of intelligent artifacts for contact and communication missions among extraterrestrial cultures. A balanced, more cost-effective Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence strategy is needed. See article.
g Cosmicus - While recognizing that many of the driving forces behind human space flight are social and political, rather than narrowly scientific, it seems clear that science has been, and will continue to be, a major beneficiary of having people in space. What, after all, is the alternative? We can either stay at home, sending a few robot spacecraft to our neighboring planets, and continuing to gaze at the more distant universe across light years of empty space, or we can get ourselves out among the planets and, eventually, the stars. In which alternative future would we learn the most about this universe and our place within it? See article.
g Learning - There's some good news (at least for scientists and rationalists) in a recent Gallup poll: When asked "do you believe that extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth at some time in the past," 51% said no. That fraction has risen. In a 1990 poll, 41% said no, and in 2001, 38%. See article.
g Aftermath - We live in a new age of discovery, the first days of a new renaissance. It is the dawn of the age of planets. See article.

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