Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Astrometry turns up an exoworld and new science video program begins with astrobiology

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astrometry is a method of detecting planets by precisely measuring the motion of a star as planets tug it back and forth ever so slightly. The technique was first attempted 50 years ago, but has failed to turn up any extrasolar planets until now. See article.
g Learning - Richard Hoover, winner of the 2009 SPIE Gold Medal of the Society, leads off a new series of National Science Foundation video programs called Science Nation. The feature on Hoover's team's work, released 1 June, focuses on what can be learned from "extremophiles": organisms that can live and thrive in frozen deserts or steaming-hot volcanic vents. Hoover is Astrobiology Group Leader at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Hunstville, Ala. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: "Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications," by Steven J. Dick (ed.), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. Paul C.W. Davies argues that if the universe turns out to be biofriendly (i.e., if given enough time and the right conditions, life will emerge as a matter of course), scientifically savvy thinkers may be compelled to reject atheism and embrace intelligent design theory. The contributors are especially interested in extraterrestrial life: philosopher Ernan McMullin, for example, argues that extraterrestrial intelligence will force Christians to do some hard thinking about original sin, the human soul, and the Incarnation. See reviews.

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