Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Understanding planetary formation and astrobiology’s goals

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 - Astronomers are now studying the evolution of planets by studying dead stars. These stars are littered with the remnants of asteroids – providing information about the building materials of planets. Understanding planetary formation is essential in determining where to look for habitable worlds beyond our solar system. See article.
g Abodes - In the “Star Wars” movies fictional planets are covered with forests, oceans, deserts, and volcanoes. But new models from a team of MIT, NASA, and Carnegie scientists begin to describe an even wider range of Earth-size planets that astronomers might actually be able to find in the near future. See article.
g Cosmicus - After decades of work, researchers made rat stem cells, built the first memristor and watched a language evolve like an organism. But none of those accomplishments impressed us as much as the breakthroughs on this list. See article.
g Learning - In the 1990s, scientists coined the term "astrobiology" to refer to the study of life in space. During a 2003 radio broadcast of Earth and Sky, scientist Bruce Runnegar discussed the goals of this fascinating field. See article.
g Imagining - How common are other civilizations in the universe? This question has fascinated humanity for centuries, and although we still have no definitive answer, a number of recent developments have brought it once again to the fore. Chief among these is the confirmation - after a long wait and several false starts - that planets exist outside our solar system. See article. My apologies in advance for the Web site that I found this otherwise credible article on.
g Aftermath - The statement that extraterrestrial intelligence exists or doesn’t can have the parallel statement that God exists or doesn’t. Some people say there’s already sufficient evidence of existence for both. If you set aside abductions and miracles, it’s true that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence for either. However, if and when humanity ever detects evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence, it will break the symmetry of these two statements and, in fact, that evidence will be inconsistent with the existence of God or at least organized religions. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future


Ryan Shulman said...

Scientists' views have evolved dramatically - they now see forms of life on red dwarf stars, on hot jupiters and on icy planets billions of miles from any heat source.

Rob Bignell said...

Good observation, Ryan. I suspect once we actually discover extraterrestrial life (whether microbial or intelligent), our understanding of a "habitable zone" will greatly expand.In the hsort term,though, searching for planets in we traditionally define as a habitable zone (Earth's orbit around a G-type star) appears to increase the odds of finding alien life. At thev ery least, it will increase our knowledge and understanding of how solar systems function.