Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sugar molecule in space and best chance of picking up a broadcast from intelligent aliens

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 -Scientists have reported the extensive presence of hydrated silicas on Mars after analyzing data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been gathering information on the planet since 2006. See article.
g Life - A sugar molecule linked to the origin of life was discovered in a potentially habitable region of our galaxy. See article.
g Message -Our best chance of picking up a broadcast from intelligent aliens is when the Earth is closest to being directly between our Sun and the transmitting alien star. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Learning -Could a new world be discovered with a department store telescope having only a small 4-inch diameter lens? It was a little more than a decade ago that the world's most powerful telescopes could just begin to discover extrasolar planets, but with over 120 new worlds found, the technique seems primed to become general. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining -Many science fiction story lines involve alien life forms. From a literary prospective, aliens often serve as metaphors for something more familiar. From a practical prospective, they make stories more interesting and TV more eye-catching. But what of scientific accuracy? A professor offers his advice about "How to Build an Alien".
g Aftermath - Book alert: "Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications," by Steven J. Dick (ed.), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. Paul C.W. Davies argues that if the universe turns out to be biofriendly (i.e., if given enough time and the right conditions, life will emerge as a matter of course), scientifically savvy thinkers may be compelled to reject atheism and embrace intelligent design theory. The contributors are especially interested in extraterrestrial life: philosopher Ernan McMullin, for example, argues that extraterrestrial intelligence will force Christians to do some hard thinking about original sin, the human soul, and the Incarnation. See reviews.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

No comments: