Saturday, June 26, 2010

Finding exoplanets by not looking for them and seventh graders discover cave on 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 Abodes - What’s the best way to find a habitable exoplanet? Don't look for one, says an astrobiologist. See article.
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. Click here for the program.
g Cosmicus - When you ask an astronomer about the James Webb Space Telescope's orbit, they'll tell you something that sounds like it came from a science-fiction novel. The Webb won't be orbiting the Earth – instead we will send it almost a million miles out into space to a place called "L2." See article.
g Learning - A group of seventh-graders in California has discovered a mysterious cave on Mars as part of a research project to study images taken by a NASA spacecraft orbiting the red planet. See article.
g Imagining - An early “Star Trek” alien is the Thasians, who serve a deux ex machina role in one episode. The Thasians apparently are a noncorporeal life form that gave a human child incredible powers of telekinesis. Such capabilities, as exhibited by the child (now a 17-year-old teenager) appear to stem from within his own physical being, however. The Thasians themselves also are dependent on the physical reality of a spacecraft for traveling beyond their planet. Of course, how a noncorporeal life form might exist is beyond our physical science, though one might suspect it is an organized pattern of electrical impulses, somehow held together and organized without use of a physical platform (such as our brain cells) — though their powers can be transferred to such a platform, as occurs with the boy. Most likely the Thasians did not evolve as noncorporeal life forms but instead, being eons ahead of us in technology, rely on machines (using teleportation-like technology) to do their work; their own beings might be interfaced with such machines so a mere concentrated thought can command it. The Thasians, thus feeling encumbered by physical form, shifted to another dimension — again, more fiction than reality — where the very nature of that space allows the beings (electrical patterns) to remain organized, and perhaps better able to communicate with their machines. Of course, too little was said about the Thasians in the episode, though the boy did note that the Thasians do not “feel” or “touch” in the same way that humans do.

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