Friday, January 09, 2009

First drop of liquid ever observed on an extraterrestrial surface and a larger galaxy than once thought

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 - New measurements of how quickly our galaxy is rotating have led a team of Harvard astrophysicists to conclude that our galaxy is 50 percent more massive than previously thought, and likely does have four arms. See article.
g Abodes - The Huygens probe has captured an image of what may be the first drop of liquid ever observed on an extraterrestrial surface. See article.
g Message - Is there life "out there"? If so, is it intelligent life? One way we can address the issue is to make a reasoned guess, based upon everything we know about astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and a host of other disciplines. Many years ago the radio astronomer Frank Drake did just this, combining all the "knowledge" in the form of a mathematical equation now named for him: The Drake Equation. See article.
g Cosmicus - Scientists recently conducted field tests in Hawaii of equipment and rovers to be used on the moon. The goal was to demonstrate how astronauts might prospect for lunar resources and make their own oxygen. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a good website that gives an general overview of astrobiology for kids: “Astrocentral.”See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. In “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” Jean Heidmann, chief astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation - all of it grounded in real science - is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. See article.

Get your SF book manuscript edited


Ryan Shulman said...

The Drake equation is a great way to ESTIMATE the amount of intelligent life out there. In reality, chance is going to be a hugher factor than math and equations.

Rob Bignell said...

For the moment, I'd suggest that the Drake Equation is a great way to organize our search for extraterrestrial life. Obviously as our understanding of the universe and life in it increases, we'll have to modify the equation and our search. At the very least, organizing our current search around the Drake Equation will dramatically improve our understanding of astronomy, geology, biology and their interactions.

Martin J Sallberg said...

The assumption that the universe has been equally able to evolve intelligent life throughout most of its existence is just a guess. The idea of a fixed lifespan for technological civilizations is outright absurd. There is the possibility of "technological but not technocratic" cultures that are masters at solving problems technologically but do not create technology for the sake of technology. When intelligent life experiences the non-rivalry of vast space they will voluntarily stabilize their population level to keep it that way, so Fermis assumption of relentless expansion is bullshit.