Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Eleven-year-old SETI scientist and ice falling from the sky

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Large chunks of ice recently dropped out of clear blue sky, but no one sure where they came from. See article.
g Message - Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence depends as much upon social support for the project as upon appropriate engineering design and upon the actual existence of a nearby extrasolar civilization. The results of a sociological survey of 1,465 American college students provide the first detailed analysis of the social and ideological factors that influence support for CETI, thereby suggesting ways that support might be increased. Linked to the most idealistic goals of the space program, notably interplanetary colonization, enthusiasm for CETI is little affected by attitudes toward technology or militarism. Few sciences or scholarly fields encourage CETI, with the exceptions of anthropology and astronomy. Support is somewhat greater among men than among women, but the sex difference is far less than in attitudes toward space flight in general. Evangelical Protestantism, represented by the "Born Again" movement, strongly discourages support for CETI. Just as exobiology begins with an understanding of terrestrial biology, exosociology on the question of how interstellar contact can be achieved should begin with serious sociological study of factors operating on our own world. See article. Note: This article is from 1983.
g Cosmicus - Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies is one of the most innovative thinkers in the field of astrobiology, a field known for attracting scientists who think outside the box. Since September 2006, Davies has been the director of Arizona State University’s BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. Below is the text of a presentation he gave at the NASA-sponsored Astrobiology Science Conference in 2008, in which he argued that the most cost-effective way to send humans to Mars would be to send them with the understanding that they wouldn’t be coming back. See article.
g Learning - The other day, in a beige cubicle at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, a scientist named Kamau Hamilton tapped some numbers into a computer. A giant radio telescope 300 miles away swiveled clockwise in response - the better to detect a possible extraterrestrial transmission. Kamau watched the telescope on a video feed for a moment. Then he pushed back from the desk, pulled up his jeans, ran over to the other side of the room and began playing with some other cool SETI stuff. Kamau is 11. See article.
g Aftermath - The spaceship comes down in your backyard, crushing a bed of petunias, and out steps the alien. This is always an awkward social moment. What, exactly, do you say to someone who may hold the secrets to the universe? See article.

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