Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Magnetic portals between Sun and Earth and what aliens mean in fiction

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 -Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and the Sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star. See article.
g Life - Dinosaurs survived two mass extinctions and 50 million years before they dominated the Earth. The new finding sheds light on an important stage in the evolution of life on our planet. See article.
g Message -The search for extraterrestrial intelligence must include complementary observing programs that investigate our solar system and near Earth. Solar system observing strategies involve a search for energy (e.g., artificial microwaves) or physical manifestations (e.g., exploratory robotic probes) that may be present. Artificial electromagnetic emissions from robotic probes may be detectable using existing ground-based radio-telescope observatories like Arecibo, or those undergoing construction such as the Allen Telescope Array. See article.
g Imagining -In popular fiction and conspiracy theories, life forms, especially intelligent life forms, that are of extraterrestrial origin, - i.e. not coming from the Earth - are referred to as alien and collectively as aliens. Prime examples of how aliens are viewed are found in the movies Alien, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Signs, Independence Day, and The War of the Worlds. This usage is clearly anthropocentric: When humans in fictional accounts accomplish interstellar travel and land on a planet elsewhere in the universe, the local inhabitants of these other planets are usually still referred to as "alien," even though they are the native life form and the humans are the intruders. In general they are seen as unfriendly life forms. This may be seen as a reversion to the classic meaning of "alien" as referring to "other," in contrast to "us" in the context of the writer's frame of reference. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, writes Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See reviews.

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