Thursday, July 22, 2010

ETI sending tweets and lake-level changes on Titan

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 - Astronomers have discovered the most massive stars known, including one at more than 300 times the mass of our sun — double the size that scientists thought heavyweight stars could reach. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists have found evidence of lake-level changes on Saturn's moon, Titan. Titan is the only world aside from Earth than is known to have a hydrological cycle. Studying Titan's hydrology can help astrobiologists understand how such cycles operate beyond Earth, and could have implications for theories about strange life on the unique moon. See article.
g Life - Scientists are regularly blown away by the complexity, power, and sheer number of microbes that live in our bodies. “We have over 10 times more microbes than human cells in our bodies,” said George Weinstock of Washington University in St. Louis. But the microbiome, as it’s known, remains mostly a mystery. “It’s as if we have these other organs, and yet these are parts of our bodies we know nothing about.” See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers have provided evidence that women can multitask more effectively than men. See article.
g Message - Aliens may be using a cosmic version of Twitter to contact us - but for decades we have been missing their "tweets", it has been claimed. ETI is more likely to be sending out short, directed messages than continuous signals beamed in all directions, say experts. See article.
g Cosmicus - A private suborbital spaceship built for the space tourism firm Virgin Galactic made its first flight with a crew onboard last week as it soared over California's Mojave Desert beneath its enormous mothership. 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 paper.

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