Monday, October 27, 2008

Solar system analog and ‘Let’s Build and Extraterrestrial’

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 -A nearby solar system bears a striking similarity to our own solar system, raising the possibility it could harbor Earth-like planets. See article.
g Life - Scientists have discovered that many genes related to disease are probably as old as the very first living cell. Other disease-related genes can be traced back to important moments in evolution, such as the origin of mammals. See article.
g Message -Book alert: In “Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life,“ a fascinating speculative book, author Seth Shostak builds a careful case for the importance of the institute's work, narrowing the range of the galaxy's possibly life-nurturing stars and imagining what forms non-carbon-based life might take. "Although a majority of the American public is convinced that aliens are making house calls to planet Earth," Shostak writes, "most scientists aren't." In prose as lively and dramatic as the science-fiction movies he clearly savors, in the book's final chapters Shostak describes scientific reality: "If it happens, it will begin slowly and without warning in a radio telescope's cramped, cluttered, control room.... under a hundred tons of steel faced off against the pinpoint gleams of the night sky." The book is rich in considered, engaging science, with occasional lapses into excessive speculation about artificial intelligence in space, or into plugs for the institute. Sections on possible alien behavior, on motives for contact and means of contact — all of which make comparisons to movies — are compelling as they reveal as much about us as about anyone who may pop across for a visit. See review.
g Cosmicus - India has successfully launched the country's first mission to the moon. The mission also includes a large amount of international cooperation, and is carrying instruments from both the European Space Agency and NASA. See article.
g Imagining -Here’s a neat site that draws upon the history of science fiction for examples: “Let’s Build an Extraterrestrial”.
g Aftermath - If some day we decide to transmit intentional messages to the stars, rather than solely listen as current SETI programs do, what would we say? What sort of first impression would we want to give our celestial correspondents? See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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