Friday, December 19, 2008

Viking mission’s ambiguous results and the history of the search for extraterrestrial life

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 - Mars is often suggested as a good location to search for alien life. Despite many missions to the red planet, it's still a mystery whether life existed there in the distant past or if it is thriving there today. Attempting to answer this question was an aim of the Viking missions of 1976, but the results of those experiments were frustratingly ambiguous. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Message - Book alert: “Worlds Without End: the Historic Search for Extraterrestrial Life” by R.A.S. Hennessey offers the first complete history of Pluralism - from Plato to NATO. Is there life, intelligent or otherwise, on other worlds - or are we unique and alone in the Universe? This question, now assuming a leading role in science and contemporary culture, is of great antiquity. Its long history has embraced a vast range of interests - from the philosophers of classical Greece, medieval theologians and intellectuals of the Enlightenment down to today's cosmologists, UFO enthusiasts and fans of TV space-operas. Among the important contributors to this 2500-yearold debate are Plato, Aquinas, Newton, Kant, Tom Paine, H.G. Wells, Sir Fred Hoyle and Francis Crick. Worlds Without End is, however, the first full-length chronicle of the whole, long saga. As a result of this long perspective R.A.S. Hennessey is able to identify the major trends and developments in pluralist theories over the centuries. Surprisingly his study reveals that much of what is considered to be new turns out to be old and well-worn - showing how little is truly 'new under the Sun'. This well-illustrated and accessibly written work thus provides an invaluable background to one of the major debates of our time. It will be welcomed not only by those engaged in this debate - scientists, historians, theologians and science fiction readers - but anyone who has looked up at the night sky and wondered, as have others down the ages, "Is there anyone out there?"
g Imagining - Psychologist Frederick Malmstrom, currently a visiting scholar at the U.S. Air Force Academy, believes that “visions” of space aliens are actually the image of the prototypical female face that is hardwired into every baby human's brain. When Malmstrom altered a picture of a woman in a way consistent with the characteristics of a newborn's vision (astigmatism and a shallow focal plane), the result looked very much like a big-eyed alien. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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