Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Biology from chemistry and sending Bach to aliens

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 GJ 876?
g Abodes -One hundred years ago, 800 square miles of forest was destroyed in Siberia by a powerful impact. Studying the site has revealed clues about how impacts affect ecosystems and human populations on Earth. See article.
g Life - Biology arose as a spontaneous development from the chemistry of the early Earth by Free Energy–driven processes that occurred in common environments involving significant populations of systems. Molecular imprinting to matrices is capable of catalysis of polymer formation and reproduction that, in association with self-assembled membranes, could lead to proto-enzymes, proto-ribosomes, and proto-cells. Proto-cells would evolve via processes analogous to Darwinian natural selection. These hypotheses are testable by controlled laboratory experiments. What we call “life” is the sum of properties of such highly evolved systems. See article.
g Message - One of our natural tendencies when we make contact with strangers is to try to impress them. Sloppy dressers might polish their shoes for a job interview, hopeful suitors will wash their cars for a first date and prospective children-in-law will be on their best behavior in the presence of the parents of their intended. Wouldn’t we want to do the same in our first contact with ET? Lewis Thomas, in his book “Lives of a Cell,” suggests that if we want to impress an alien civilization, we should send "Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again." See article.
g Aftermath - In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

No comments: