Thursday, October 16, 2008

Learning about Earth on Venus and ‘The Day After Contact’

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 -Venus Express is being used to observe the Earth from its orbit around Venus. Astronomers hope that the data will help develop techniques to search for habitable planets around distant stars. See article.
g Life - Developing strategies for finding life on other planets and in extreme environments on Earth will be the focus of Penn State's new astrobiology initiative under a five-year grant from NASA's Astrobiology Institute for "Signatures of Life from Earth and Beyond." See article.
g Message -It's not easy to look for life somewhere other than Earth. First, scientists searching for life in space have to come up with a working definition of 'extraterrestrial life'. Next, they need to develop a strategy identifying places and methods for their search. To make matters more complicated, all of this has to be done without contaminating the search site with life from Earth or contaminating Earth with potential extraterrestrial life. See article.
g Cosmicus -Kevin Knuth has a laboratory in the physics department of the University at Albany that is filled with LEGOs. The bricks are relatively cheap and can be used to rapidly prototype a robot's body. Knuth's robots are being programmed to solve such problems as mapping complex terrain. See article.
g Learning -Three young researchers are starting exciting new fellowships in UK Universities dedicated to exploring and uncovering the mysteries of our Solar System. See article.
g Imagining -Venus's battery-acid clouds might very well support microbial life - like the "extremophile" microorganisms that Earth scientists have found thriving near volcano outflows. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Aftermath - Here’s a brief but interesting piece: “The Day After Contact: Forecasting Reactions to Extraterrestrial Contact”. Note: This article is from 1999.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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