Wednesday, November 12, 2008

India reaches the moon and the folly of the Anthropic Principle

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 Life - Many octopuses evolved from a common ancestor that lived off Antarctica more than 30 million years ago, according to a "Census of Marine Life" that is seeking to map the oceans from microbes to whales. See article.
g Message -If we are not alone in the universe, why have we never picked up signals from an extraterrestrial civilization? Known as the Fermi paradox after physicist Enrico Fermi, who first posed the question, this long-standing puzzle remains one of the strongest arguments against the existence of intelligent aliens. But two physicists say they have come up with a solution. They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background noise. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus -Chandrayaan-1, India's first mission to the moon, has successfully arrived in orbit around the moon. The satellite is now prepared to return valuable information about the lunar environment in preparation for future human missions. See article.
g Imagining - Star Trek's very first alien, the Talosians pose quite an evolutionary challenge: Their heads are oversized because of large, powerful brains capable of telepathy and even mind control of others. First off, a brain of that size must demand a lot of energy. This is somewhat addressed through the large arteries and veins apparent on their bald heads; their frail bodies also indicate fewer cells below the neckline for oxygen-carrying blood to support. But they probably also need greater lung capacity to cycle more oxygen into their bodies as well as a larger heart for pumping that oxygen-laden blood to and through the brain. Their bodies don't indicate larger lungs, however. Another problem with their head/brain size is giving birth. The enormity of the head is limited by the size and shape of the pelvis — and their human shape and gait indicates they couldn't give birth to an infant with a head any larger than ours. A possibility is that their brain primarily develops outside of the womb; perhaps they grow in their telepathic powers as they age. Another possibility: They are not born naturally but artificially created, indicating a separation from among the most basic instincts – mating. The Talosians, after all, are fairly unimaginative creatures, dependent upon probing the minds of others for new experiences! As for their telepathic and power of illusion capabilities, we'll just have to presume that somehow their brain lobes have evolved sections capable of connecting and interacting across the medium of air with another creature's neurons.
g Aftermath - Freelance writer Mark Pendergrast examines the folly of the Anthropic Principle in a Vermont newspaper op-ed. See article.Note: This column is from 2005.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future


T. E. Williams said...

Actually, that op-ed on the Anthropic Principle got it exactly backwards. The Anthropic Principle does not indicate that the universe is fine-tuned for human life (leading to ideas of a creator or "grand purpose"). Quite the opposite. The Anthropic Principle points out that IF the universe were NOT suited to human life, there would be NO HUMANS IN IT. So, of course the universe humans examine is suitable for them.

Rob Bignell said...

While an interesting philosophical concept that can point out human conceits, we should recognize that none of the finely tuned phenomena that make up this universe require human life or demand that lifeforms develop intelligence. That in itself makes a strong statement about our "place" in the universe.