Saturday, November 15, 2008

How many technically advanced civilizations exist in our galaxy and insight into what may be the first self-replicating molecule

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 - Plumes of water and dust that spout from the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus have intrigued scientists ever since the Cassini spacecraft first captured images of the phenomenon. Now, new information may help scientists determine how the massive geysers are formed. See article.
g Life - Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have determined the three-dimensional structure of an RNA enzyme, or "ribozyme," that carries out a fundamental reaction required to make new RNA molecules. Their results provide insight into what may have been the first self-replicating molecule to arise billions of years ago on the evolutionary path toward the emergence of life. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Message -How many technically advanced civilizations exist in our galaxy? With this essay by Steven Soter, Scientist-in-Residence in the Center for Ancient Studies at New York University, Astrobiology Magazine initiates the first in a series of "Gedanken" or thought, experiments - musings by noted scientists on scientific mysteries in a series of "what if" scenarios. See article.
g Imagining - The alien invasion is a common theme in science fiction stories and film, in which a technologically-superior extraterrestrial society invades Earth with the intent to replace human life, or to enslave it under a colonial system. But would aliens actually ever attack another planet? See article.
g Aftermath - How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See article.

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