Sunday, August 17, 2008

Clay on Mars and phoning home intergalactically

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 -Layers of clay have been discovered in the Martian highlands using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The data indicates that liquid water was once widespread on early Mars. See article.
g Life - Sasquatch or no sasquatch, a press conference Friday about a Bigfoot discovery felt like a zoo. See article.
g Message -Phoning home intergalactically may have one natural prerequisite if a civilization is hoping to connect: timing their precursor signal or 'ring' so that we might know that they're broadcasting. Dr. Robin Corbet, of the Universities' Space Research Association, discusses his research findings on Synchronized SETI here. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus -Take a group of scientists and a video game designer and what do you get? Spore, a game that can help teach players some evolutionary biology. See article.
g Learning -Founded in 2001 and published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Astrobiology is a peer-reviewed journal "that explores the secrets of life's origin, evolution, distribution, and destiny in the universe." The journal's Founding and current Editor-in-Chief is Dr. S.L. Cady. In this interview, Dr. Cady talks with about Astrobiology's publication history and citation achievements.
g Aftermath - According to astronomer Allen Tough, even before a signal is detected, six positive consequences will result from the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence, usually called SETI. (1) Humanity's self-image. SETI has enlarged our view of ourselves and enhanced our sense of meaning. Increasingly, we feel a kinship with the civilizations whose signals we are trying to detect. (2) A fresh perspective. SETI forces us to think about how extraterrestrials might perceive us. This gives us a fresh perspective on our society's values, priorities, laws, and foibles. (3) Questions. SETI is stimulating thought and discussion about several fundamental questions. (4) Education. Some broad-gauge educational programs have already been centered around SETI. (5) Tangible spin-offs. In addition to providing jobs for some people, SETI provides various spin-offs, such as search methods, computer software, data, and international scientific cooperation. (6) Future scenarios. SETI will increasingly stimulate us to think carefully about possible detection scenarios and their consequences, about our reply, and generally about the role of extraterrestrial communication in our long-term future. Such thinking leads, in turn, to fresh perspectives on the SETI enterprise itself. Read the full paper.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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