Saturday, August 07, 2010

Blood Falls and what it’s like to listen for ETI

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 - Water. It's essential for life as best we know it. Almost three-fourths of the Earth is covered with water. We live on the pale blue dot, and our lives depend fundamentally on water. Yet, just after Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, the surface was mostly dry. "So, where did the water come from?" asked a high school teacher during the recent Astrobiology Summer Science Institute for Teachers at San Francisco State University. It's a good question that his students are very likely to ask as they study the evolution of our planetary system. See article. This article is from 2007.
g Life - Blood Falls, so named for the slow trickle of blood-red water that cascades down a glacier in Antarctica is a sight to behold. The five-story waterfall pours very slowly out of the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. Geologists first believed the red color came from algae, when in fact its true nature turned out to be much more significant. See article.
g Message - What’s it like to sit in an observatory listening for signals from ETI? See article. This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - Far from being an absolute, time in quantum physics is not a solid background upon which particles in space change. In quantum physics time is not yet really, in a sense, even there until the “time particles” are measured. See article. This article is from 2004.
g Learning - “Solar System Math” is a series of four classroom lessons centered on pre-algebra topics such as measurement, unit conversion, ratio and proportion, scale, data analysis, and data representation. The downloadable software application, What’s the Difference, supports the lessons with engaging multimedia that accurately illustrates the size, distance, and composition of the bodies in our solar system as well as key concepts such as transfer orbit and synodic period. By exploring key attributes of our solar system’s planets and major moons, students decide where humans should next explore. These lessons were developed in response to a needs-assessment conducted for the NASA Explorer Schools and are aligned with national math standards for grades 5-8. The lessons and What’s the Difference software nicely blend science and math through quality hands-on investigations, multimedia, and paper-and-pencil activities. See lessons (scroll down the page to locate it).
g Imagining - Here’s a set of interesting musings about “characterization and aliens” in science fiction. The point made in the essay is apt: Too many alien species presented in sci-fi are monocultures and lack any individuality. We should presume that if not cultures then certainly individuals of extraterrestrial species will be as diverse as they are in humanity.
g Aftermath - While searches for radio signals will continue to be a mainstay of SETI, in the next decade there will be additional sophisticated searches for rapid laser pulses from other stars, as the traditional searches at radio frequencies are complemented by more searches in the optical spectrum. With advances like this on the horizon, scientists are becoming increasingly interested in what might happen in the wake of news that we have detected intelligent life near another star. See article. This article is from 2001.

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