Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Titan vs. Earth and picking up aliens' leakage radiation

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 Lacaille 9352?
g Abodes - Scientists are drawing unique comparisons between the climate of Saturn's moon Titan and the Earth. Titan has some of the same circulation processes that happen on Earth, only they occur with completely different substances and at much colder temperatures. See article.
g Message - A new type of radio telescope may aid in the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life. The LOFAR telescope could be used to detect signals directed toward Earth, and might even pick up 'leakage radiation' from radio and TV transmitters if they're being used by civilizations around nearby stars. See article.
g Cosmicus - Researchers have built a mobile robotic arm that can 'see' its environment and learn to manipulate objects. The technology could play an important role in future robotic planetary exploration. See article.
g Learning - Here's a neat Web site to introduce kids who go ga-ga over movie aliens to the science of astrobiology. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject.