Friday, May 29, 2009

Seeking ET’s biosignature and ‘Beyond Contact’

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - With hundreds of extrasolar planets now discovered, one pressing question is how to tell if life resides on any of this galactic real estate. Researchers have found that a possible biosignature could come from life's preference for molecules of a particular handedness. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA will launch two new satellites to the moon this June, returning a wealth of new information on our nearest celestial neighbor. The LRO and LCROSS missions will return data essential in preparing for future human exploration of the lunar surface. See article.
g Learning - Armed with a camera and zeal for adventure, Del Padre Digital’s Mark Archer will step into the clouds next month, as part of an educational project aimed at making science education more interactive and accessible for students of all ages. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: As many Earthlings already know —including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience — our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations” (by Brian S. McConnell), an introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life, begins with some of the details behind UC Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer Brian McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it. This last problem, which occupies the final half of the book, proves to be the most thought provoking, and McConnell has put together a methodical, nuts-and-bolts walkthrough of both the challenges involved and how binary code might be enlisted to solve them.

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