Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rock varnish as a Martian habitat and plasma-based lifeforms

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 - A new study has suggested that rock varnish could provide a niche habitat for microbial life onMars and in other extraterrestrial environments devoid of liquid water. See article.
g Life - Researchers have made steps toward understanding how life originated by synthesizing RNA enzymes that can replicate themselves without the help of additional molecules. See article.
g Message - Book alert: If you are interested in how researchers plan to search the heavens for signs of intelligent life, you should have “SETI 2020” on your bookshelf. Written by Ronald D. Ekers (editor), D. Kent Cullers and John Billingham, “SETI 2020: is a remarkably comprehensive study of how scientists busy with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence should direct their efforts between now and the year 2020. Distilling the work of dozens of top SETI experts, astronomers and technology mavens, this book gives an overview of the problem of finding evidence for extraterrestrial technologies, and how to best address it. New radio telescopes consisting of large arrays of relatively small antennas are proposed and detailed. So are new types of antennas that can survey the entire sky at once. Of particular interest is the extensive treatment of optical SETI — the search for signals beamed our way using high-powered, pulsed lasers or their equivalent. A book that's interesting for both the layman and the technically sophisticated, “SETI 2020” is the definitive publication in this fascinating field.
g Cosmicus - MIT faculty and students will play substantial roles on two of the seven teams that NASA selected to be part of its virtual Lunar Science Institute, aimed at addressing key questions about lunar science in preparation for the resumption of human visits to the moon about a decade from now. See article.
g Imagining - You’ve heard of carbon-based and silicon-based lifeforms in science fiction. But what about plasma-based life? Is it plausible? See article.
g Aftermath - In the next two dozen years, the Allen Telescope Array will parse the nearest thousand light-years of space. If there are other occupants of this galactic neighborhood, we could turn up a signal. But then what? Would the discovery be put under wraps, either voluntarily or by government edict? If we found a signal, would you know? See article. Note: This article is from 2006.

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Ryan Shulman said...

People's minds can be very narrow. I have never heard of plasma-based life until now. This is very interesting. Also, how do we know that there aren't many, many more frequencies than we know of? If we do find life, then any information tat slips out will probably be either accidental or a falsified story.

Rob Bignell said...

So far plasma-based lifeforms have only been discussed in science fiction. Should we ever be able to discern that such a lifeform actually exists, just how we would communicate with it let alone understand its psychology would pose difficult challenges indeed. as you point out, we'll have to overcome our narrow-mindedness as a species to figure out the answers - and make that first detection.