Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where postbiological life might exist and ‘2001’’s astrobiological vision

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 - The Indian spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, has returned images of never-before-seen regions of the moon's poles using a NASA-developed instrument. The mission will help determine if important resources like ice deposits exist in permanently shadowed craters near these regions. See article.
g Life - Book alert: In book publishing, timing and controversy are everything. So it is no surprise to see University of Chicago professor and evolutionary geneticist Jerry A. Coyne's new book, “Why Evolution Is True”, appearing just in time for Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. See review.
g Message - Postbiological life might operate (communicate, organize, travel, colonize) on a larger scale than a single galaxy—possibly on the scale of the supercluster. The most advanced postbiological civilizations in our Local Supercluster may have developed in the Virgo Cluster, a rich cluster where intergalactic communication and travel would be easiest. If these advanced civilizations wanted to contact new civilizations elsewhere in the Supercluster they might collectively broadcast from one central location, for the sake of efficiency and to make it easy to find. A powerful, centrally located beacon would tend to replace all others in the Supercluster. This could explain the failure of SETI. The most likely location for this beacon is the giant elliptical galaxy M87. See article.
g Cosmicus - Visionary science writer Sir Arthur C Clarke, author of more than 100 books, died recently at the age of 90 in Sri Lanka. Once called ‘the first dweller in the electronic cottage’, his vision of an astrobiological future and its technology captured the popular imagination. In this essay from Astrobiology Magazine, European Edition, the science and culture of his novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is assessed. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a great book for fourth- through sixth-grade kids: “Is Anybody Out There?” by Heather Couper, Nigel Henbest and Luciano Corbella. Of the book, one reviewer wrote: “Does intelligent life exist beyond our planet? This visually exciting examination looks at both the myth and the science related to the question. The authors, both British science writers, describe what alien lifeforms might look like, how we might communicate with them, and the impact the discovery of extrasolar planets has had on the development of scientific equipment. The book is organized into 17 appealing photo-spreads, comprising color photographs, detailed captions and boxed insets that contain information about a scientist or about a historic scientific event, or suggested activities for would-be scientists. The inclusion of a "count the alien civilizations" foldout board game is a bonus.”
g Aftermath - Hundreds of astronomers recently learned that life in outer space is likely to lack green eyes and be far more prosaic, tiny and, quite possibly, completely unlike life as we know it. This blunt appraisal came from the University of Washington's Center for Astrobiology and Early Evolution, one of the first programs in the country to give an advanced degree in astrobiology. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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