Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Challenging our notions of life and plans to explore Mars

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 - What is the habitable zone for the nearby star GJ 338 B?
g Abodes - NASA scientists are using high-tech 'spider' robots to monitor volcanoes on Earth. The low-cost sensors provide real-time monitoring of one of Earth's most challenging environments. The technology will help scientists studying processes on Earth - and could be used in locations beyond our own planet. See article.
g Life - SETI scientist Jill Tarter challenged the notions of life while speaking recently in Australia. See article.
g Message - A lot of science fiction doesn’t offer a particularly accurate description of SETI. Here’s one piece that does: James Gunn’s novel “The Listeners,” published by Signet in 1972. This offers a good early portrayal of a scientifically reasonable search.
g Cosmicus - NASA and the European Space Agency have recently unveiled their joint plans of exploring Mars between 2015 and 2020. Under the agreement, ESA is to build a trace-gas orbiter, a spacecraft able to detect gas plumes emanating from the Red Planet and to image the surface. The Europeans will also deploy the large ExoMars rover, which is about the size of a Mini Cooper. NASA will deliver the European rover, as well as a robotic explorer of its own, a mid-sized sample-caching rover, Nature News reports. See article.
g Aftermath - According to astronomer Allen Tough, even before a signal is detected, six positive consequences will result from the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence, usually called SETI. (1) Humanity's self-image. SETI has enlarged our view of ourselves and enhanced our sense of meaning. Increasingly, we feel a kinship with the civilizations whose signals we are trying to detect. (2) A fresh perspective. SETI forces us to think about how extraterrestrials might perceive us. This gives us a fresh perspective on our society's values, priorities, laws, and foibles. (3) Questions. SETI is stimulating thought and discussion about several fundamental questions. (4) Education. Some broad-gauge educational programs have already been centered around SETI. (5) Tangible spin-offs. In addition to providing jobs for some people, SETI provides various spin-offs, such as search methods, computer software, data, and international scientific cooperation. (6) Future scenarios. SETI will increasingly stimulate us to think carefully about possible detection scenarios and their consequences, about our reply, and generally about the role of extraterrestrial communication in our long-term future. Such thinking leads, in turn, to fresh perspectives on the SETI enterprise itself. Read the full paper,

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