Saturday, March 28, 2009

Restricting SETI searches and 300 million years to colonize the galaxy

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 - In another amazingly gorgeous image, Hubble has captured a unique planetary nebula nested inside an open star cluster. The glowing gaseous shrouds were shed by the star after it ran out of fuel to sustain the nuclear reactions in its core. Our own sun will undergo a similar process, but not for another 5 billion years or so. See article.
g Abodes - A volcanic eruption close to the South Pacific nation of Tonga has destroyed rich bird life and vegetation, leaving a wasteland of black ash and tree stumps. See article.
g Life - Scientists have presented an artificial genetic system using a type of DNA with 12 chemical letters instead of the usual four. The technology is shedding light on the origins of life on Earth, and could be used to personalize medical treatment for millions of patients. See article.
g Message - It is easier in principle to find and characterize Earth-like planets when you can see them eclipsing their system’s star. Therefore if we want to talk with ETIs, we should be targeting our searches in the plane of the ecliptic. “Plane of the ecliptic” is just a technical term for the directions in space that would see us eclipsing the Sun. The aliens living in star systems in the plane of the ecliptic, so the reasoning goes, would then be the ones most likely to have spotted us and be trying to communicate with us. Responds one scientist and sci-fi writer: “Maybe a teeny-tiny bit more likely, but overall a dumb reason to restrict searches.” Here’s why.
g Cosmicus - Researchers at a U.S. Navy laboratory have unveiled what they say is "significant" evidence of cold fusion, a potential energy source that has many skeptics in the scientific community. See article.
g Learning - Looking for someplace inexpensive to go on your next vacation? Consider Mars. Now that Google Earth 5.0, with its built-in Mars mode, has been released, you can check out the most stunning vistas the Red Planet has to offer – and you won’t have to spend a dime. See article.
g Imagining - An intelligent species capable of interstellar communication could colonize/explore the galaxy within 300 million years, one researcher says. See article.

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