Friday, June 11, 2010

Drilling Mars for life and long delays in verifying potential ETI signals

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 - NASA’s Phoenix lander revealed water ice mere inches beneath the Martian surface, and chemical evidence from the landing site strongly hints that the region is habitable. But learning whether there is life in Martian ice will require drilling — and drilling on Mars will be anything but easy. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory found that single brain cells, if confronted with a difficult task, can identify objects as dissimilar as sports cars and dogs. See article.
g Message - Most SETI programs scan the sky looking for strong radio signals. Any signals that are deemed interesting are put on a list for follow-up observations weeks, months — even years later. Long delays in verification of potential ET signals sometimes generate tantalizing, but ultimately frustrating, stories. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and author of the "Physics of Star Trek," and Seth Shostak , senior astronomer at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in Mountain View, Calif., were in New York last week to probe the science of "Star Trek" at the World Science Festival. They also answered a few questions on the topic for See article.
g Learning - When you think about it, science teachers probably spend too much time filling children’s heads with science facts. Our textbooks are overstuffed, our assessment systems emphasize memorization over critical thinking, and we struggle to find time for inquiry. For decades, we’ve been telling our students “there are nine planets in our solar system” rather than “nine objects in our solar system meet our current definition of a planet.” We shouldn’t be surprised that students struggle to understand scientific knowledge as a social, human construct. See article.

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Anonymous said...

Well the drake equation is nothing concrete... its just a probabilistic measure. I came across an article with a more realistic approach to solving this problem.
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Rob Bignell said...

I'm not certain how the article offers a more realistic approach as it makes an estimate using the Drake Equation!

I do agree, though, that the equation is a probabilistic measure. We simply don't know the answer to many of the equation's variables ... because of that, the equation also can serve as a guide to our where we should direct our research. As more knowledge is gained, we can better estimates using the equation - and once ET change adjust the equation to better fit reality.