Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Discovering Earth-like planets via infrared and new national space policy for United States

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 - Many scientists speculate that our galaxy could be full of places like Pandora from the movie "Avatar" - Earth-like worlds in solar systems besides our own. Seeing them has been impossible, though – but now it may be possible to see them in the infrared. See article.
g Intelligence - The news keeps us constantly in tune with environmental disasters and their effects on Earth's climate and biosphere. How did past generations who didn’t have television or a camera depict those dramatic moments in living geologic history? Through art. See article.
g Message - Some people sit in the tub, yell "Eureka!", and come up with a brand new view of matter. Others can be riding a trolley home and at the sight of a clock initiate a whole new concept of time. Yet another more pedantic method is to follow government procedures to resolve riddles. Steven Dick and James Strick in their book, “The Living Universe - NASA and the development of Astrobiology,” narrate how this occurred for the new academic field of astrobiology. Though perhaps not as film-worthy as instantaneous flashes, the four decades of meetings, workshops and programs described therein show that this distinct academic area had an eventful and exciting coming of age. See review. This review is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - The White House rolled out a sweeping national space policy for the United States on Monday, one that aims to boost international cooperation and reiterates plans to send Americans to visit an asteroid by 2025. See article.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Planet-hunting telescopes and M-type habstars

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 - For the astrobiologists at SETI and many other institutions, M dwarfs are taking center stage in a debate on whether or not they can be habstars, that is, stars that can support a web of advanced lifeforms the way our Sun does. See article. This article is from 2004.
g Abodes - Two planet-hunting telescopes - CoRoT and Kepler - are keeping astronomers hard at work cataloging far-distant planets that orbit other stars in our galaxy. The search for distant planets is essential for astrobiologists who are hunting for habitable, Earth-like worlds beyond our solar system. See article.
g Life - When scientists get together to talk about extraterrestrial life, they certainly don't imagine little green men. In fact, our first contact with life beyond our planet probably will involve a microbe. See article. This article is from 2001.
g Message - Put yourself in the situation of the aliens, out there somewhere in the galaxy. They surmise that Earth looks promising for the emergence of intelligent life one day, but they have no idea when. There would be little point in beaming radio messages in this direction for eons in the vague hope that one day radio technology would be developed here and someone would decide to tune in, says one astrobiologist. See article. This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - How will science revolutionize the 21st century? See article.
g Aftermath - Would ET vote? What effect will ET’s political philosophy have on ours once contact is made? See article. This article is from 2002.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Most complex organic molecules yet found in space and private company developing capsule for ISS

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 - New findings challenge a theory that the cooling period known as the Younger Dryas was caused by an impact. What was previously thought to be geologic evidence of intense heating at the time has now been shown to be fossilized balls of fungus, charcoal and fecal pellets. See article.
g Life - A team of scientists has succeeded in identifying one of the most complex organic molecules yet found in the interstellar medium. The findings will help astrobiologists understand the production of organic molecules in space and how these molecules could have played a role in the origin of life on Earth. See article.
g Message - It's a risky long shot that burns up money and might never, ever pay off. So is searching for intelligent creatures on unseen worlds worth the candle? After all, aren't there better ways to use our monies and technical talents than trying to find something that's only posited to exist: sentient beings in the dark depths of space? See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Cosmicus - As NASA's space shuttle fleet draws close to retirement, aerospace juggernaut Boeing is hard at work developing a new capsule-based spaceship to fly people to and from the International Space Station. See article.
g Learning - "How can I become a SETI scientist and find ET?" Students are excited by the SETI searches and want to participate. Diverse academic pathways lead to career as a scientific sleuth seeking evidence for ET. Most of the time, students assume that they should train as scientists. True, but this is only one avenue to working on major scientific research projects. See article. This article is from 2001.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

M-type flare stars may still support life and astronauts learning field science for astrobiology

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 - Many of our galaxy's suns have destroyed the atmospheres of orbiting Earth-like planets — or so astrobiologists have long feared. The Milky Way, they note, is dominated by M dwarf stars: violent, unpredictable suns that frequently hurl high-energy particles and solar flares into space. Because they are much cooler than our sun, any potentially habitable planet would need to orbit them much closer than Earth does, putting it smack in the danger zone. But a new study indicates that these planets may be unexpectedly shielded from solar activity, keeping life safe. See article.
g Abodes - How did the Earth stay warm 3.8 billion years ago when the young sun was 30 percent weaker? It's a mystery scientists have long been trying to solve, and it may come down to global warming. Ancient warming on Earth can also provide important clues concerning modern climate change. See article.
g Life - A team of scientists and astronauts return this week to Pavilion Lake in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The scientists will be continuing their effort to understand what role biology plays in forming the strange structures that line the lakebed, while the astronauts will be learning how to do field science. See article.
g Message - If you’re not familiar with Astriobiology.com’s “Great Debates series, you’ll want to head right away to their Web site. The discussions draw upon experts in the astrobiology field. The Fermi paradox (“If there’s intelligent life out there, then why haven’t we heard from them?” is examined in six parts here.
g Learning - Astronomy begins by just looking up. As the crisp spring evenings lure you out of the house, your gaze may be drawn to several bright "stars" overhead that may bring to mind the old nursery rhyme: “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Imagining - If a massive asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and threatening to sterilize the entire planet, blasting it to pieces with nuclear bombs might seem fit for a Hollywood movie. But, it could, in fact, be a viable solution to the potentially apocalyptic event, according to scientists who have studied asteroids and possible solutions to prevent Earth impacts. See article.
g Aftermath - Given the plethora of New Age/UFOlogy Web sites about alien contact, it’s refreshing to find one that’s serious. Try the “extraterrestrial intelligence, implications following first contact” entry at astrobiologist David Darling’s site “The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight”. It includes some links and a mini reference list.

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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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Friday, June 25, 2010

Io as a potential alien habitat and odds of finding alien life by 2013 placed at 100 to 1

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 - When it comes to where extraterrestrial life might dwell in our own solar system, Jupiter's moon Europa often grabs the spotlight. However, its extraordinarily volcanic sibling Io might be a possible habitat as well. See article.
g Life - Entertainment Betting Lines have formulated odds on the possibility that alien life will be proven in the near future. The odds? By the year 2013, 100 to 1. See article.
g Intelligence - Relative to their size, humans have the biggest brains on the planet. Check out the guy sitting next to you on the bus: hunkered beneath a fringe of moussed hair and a few millimeters of skull are three crinkly pounds of brain - the only substantive difference between you and species you regard as food or pets. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - Famed Mercury astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, is urging NASA to keep its space shuttles flying beyond their planned 2010 retirement to fill a gap in U.S spaceflight capability until a suitable replacement arises. See article.
g Learning - Book alert: Seth Shostak, Senior Scientist at SETI Institute, Alex Barnett, Executive Director of Chabot Space and Science Center. Together, Seth and Alex produced a planetarium program simply entitled SETI. "Cosmic Company" complements the planetarium program and brings their ideas and delightful illustrations of alien beings to your home. They explore the possibility of alien a life, and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. Why might scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds? How can we discover it? What might alien life be like? Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. (Hardcover: Cambridge University Press, 162 pages, 2003).
g Imagining - Psychologist Frederick Malmstrom, currently a visiting scholar at the U.S. Air Force Academy, believes that “visions” of space aliens are actually the image of the prototypical female face that is hardwired into every baby human's brain. When Malmstrom altered a picture of a woman in a way consistent with the characteristics of a newborn's vision (astigmatism and a shallow focal plane), the result looked very much like a big-eyed alien. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Aftermath - The action plan in case an ETI signal is found - "A Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence” - is really only a gentlemen’s agreement.
See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Space bubble filled with baby stars and introducing children to astrobiology

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 - A spectacular new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a stunning space bubble filled with baby stars. See article.
g Abodes - NASA-funded scientists estimate from recent research that the volume of water molecules locked inside minerals in the Moon’s interior could exceed the amount of water in the Great Lakes here on Earth. See article.
g Message - Several big hunts are seeking radio and laser emissions from other civilizations. From Project Phoenix to SETI@home, here's a complete rundown of all the searches now under way or recently conducted. See article.
g Cosmicus - A new map of uranium on the moon has revealed the lunar surface to be a poor source of the radioactive stuff, but it could help solve mysteries as to how the moon formed. See article.
g Learning - Book alert: Are you looking for an introduction of basic astronomy to share with your children? Try "The Everything Astronomy Book" by Cynthia Phillips and Shana Priwer. When Phillips, a planetary scientist at SETI Institute, is not writing for children and the public, she’s exploring Jupiter’s moon, Europa, a watery world that is the target of future NASA exploration. She’s seeking to explain the surface features and evolution of this icy moon. Her ability to clearly explain science is evident in "The Everything Astronomy Book." It offers a comprehensive guide to astronomy for a general audience. This book is packed with useful diagrams, photos, tips for backyard stargazers, and fascinating history. It is a perfect introduction to the night sky for a beginner as well as a handy reference for the bookshelf of anyone captivated by the cosmos. (Paperback: Adams Media Corporation, 289 pages, 2002).

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Determining if alien rock layers were formed by living creatures and should we reply to 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 Stars - Astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and Utrecht University have found blurred oxygen signatures in the X-rays from a neutron star that 'eats' a white dwarf. For the first time the effects of extreme gravity are revealed by oxygen instead of iron atoms. See article.
g Abodes - For the first time, astronomers have been able to directly follow the motion of an exoplanet as it moves to the other side of its host star. The study is helping astronomers perfect techniques that will help in the search for habitable extrasolar planets. See article.
g Life - The first observations of extraterrestrial environments will most likely be in the form of digital images. Given an image of a rock that contains layered structures, is it possible to determine whether the layers were created by life (biogenic)? While conclusive judgments about biogenicity are unlikely to be made solely on the basis of image features, an initial assessment of the importance of a given sample can inform decisions about follow-up searches for other types of possible biosignatures (e.g., isotopic or chemical analysis). See article.
g Message - When talk turns to SETI, there's one question that's as common as catfish: "We're not broadcasting to the aliens; so what makes you think they'll be broadcasting to us?" See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Learning - "Looking for Life in the Universe" by Ellen Jackson and photographer Nic Bishop introduces readers to Dr. Jill Tarter, the SETI Institute’s Director of SETI Research, and her thrilling, rigorous, and awe-inspiring work as a scientist searching for life beyond Earth. When children consider careers in science and technology, the pathway to such careers is not always clear. Delightfully, "Looking for Life in the Universe" is more than Jill’s scientific work; it goes back to her childhood and shows how she became an engineer and scientist. This book is part of a series from Houghton Mifflin that focuses on working scientists, and a winner of the 2002 National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children. (Hardback: Houghton Mifflin, 64 pages, 2002).
g Aftermath - As the search for extraterrestrial intelligence enters a new phase, with the recent start of observations for radio signals from other worlds with the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array, the international scientific community has begun preparing all the more earnestly for the cascade of events that would follow the detection of an alien civilization. Among the most important questions humankind will ponder on that day is whether we should reply, and if so, what we should say. See article. Note: This article is from 2008.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kepler identifies 706 potential alien worlds and searching for fossils on Europa’s surface

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 Kepler spacecraft hunting for Earth-like planets around other stars has found 706 candidates for potential alien worlds while gazing at more than 156,000 stars packed into a single patch of the sky. See article.
g Life - Jupiter's moon Europa has a salty ocean where life could exist. A thick ice shell separates the ocean from our exploration vehicles, and it’s not known how far down we’d need to drill. But why drill at all, when evidence for life could be lying right on the surface? See article.
g Message - Should we modify the Drake Equation to account for civilizations which actually engage in deliberate interstellar transmission? See article.
g Cosmicus - The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) obtained its first astronomical images during its inaugural night flight on May 26. This is one of the biggest milestones achieved to date and keeps SOFIA on track for the start of science flights later this year. See article.
g Learning - Book alert: "Are We Alone? Scientists Search for Life in Space" by Gloria Skurzynski begins with the classic question: Are we alone? After discussion UFOs and common public misconceptions about aliens visiting Earth, Skurzynski goes to where the real science is happening. She brings her considerable writing skills to this delightful book, which spans astrobiology, the study of life as we know it on Earth and the search for life beyond Earth. Scientists look for life using microscopes, telescopes, space missions, and planetary explorations. They study extremophiles, organisms that live in extreme environments on Earth, in the hopes that they will lead us to a better understanding of how life may exist in space. This book visits scientists across the globe who are trying to find out more about life, from Puerto Rico to California, from Socorro, New Mexico to Chile, Finland, Spain, and Hawaii. It’s a good read and a great adventure. Selected by National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council as a "Best Book." (Hardback: National Geographic, 96 pages, 2004).

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Mars’ atmosphere toxic to organic compounds and using ultraviolet life to create life’s building blocks

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 - The atmosphere on Mars is not favorable for organic compounds such as proteins, concluded a new study. See article.
g Life - By adding ultraviolet light to a model prebiotic reaction, researchers have discovered a way to form guanine. Guanine is a building block of RNA and scientists previously had trouble determining a method by which the molecule could have formed on the ancient Earth. See article.
g Learning - Astronomers are stargazers. Whether simply standing outside identifying a constellation for a child or employing the Hubble Space Telescope to search for the most distant objects in our universe, we all share the same universe. Unlike nuclear physics or molecular biology, astronomy is accessible to both amateurs and professionals. Sometimes, it's difficult to distinguish between them. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Aftermath - Here’s an interesting book for some astrobiological reading: “After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life” by Albert A. Harrison. See reviews.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mars’ ocean of 3.5 billion years ago and a star is born

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 glimpsed what could be the youngest known star at the very moment it is being born. Not yet fully developed into a true star, the object is in the earliest stages of star formation and has just begun pulling in matter from a surrounding envelope of gas and dust. See article.
g Abodes - A vast ocean likely covered one-third of the surface of Mars some 3.5 billion years ago, according to a new study. See article.
g Life - Life may be left-handed, but it shows flashes of ambidexterity. That could complicate the search for life on other worlds, but it may also help clear up some puzzling findings from NASA's Viking Mars landers. See article.
g Message - The spectral approach is a universal tool of both astronomical observations and SETI. Furthermore, it has a clear physical meaning – a spectrometer finds the energy distribution of photons, in human sensing it is color and pitch. Under the hypothesis on identity of physical laws in our part of universe, it may be proposed that spectrometry also are using by those aliens, who know radio and lead their own SETI, too. See article. Note: This paper is from 2001.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Comets hijacked from other solar systems and what we might emphasize to 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 - A new theory suggests that many comets, including ones like Halley and Hale-Bopp, may have been formed around other stars before traveling to our solar system. Understanding the origin of comets can help us understand how these objects from space may have played a role in delivering materials to the early Earth. See article.
g Life - When we study life in the universe, we have a handy example of where we know life occurs: the Earth, our home. Understanding how life began here on Earth can help us understand how life might occur on other worlds. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA announced it has selected two candidate proposals to study how life responds and adapts to space and microgravity for the agency's next Fundamental Space Biology Program "missions of opportunity." See article.
g Aftermath - Humans live and die by approximations. We are seldom as perfect or as accurate as we would like to be. And as we contemplate what we might say to an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, maybe that's a point we should emphasize. See article.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Evidence of microscopic life on Mars claimed again and new SETI director

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 - Emboldened by the recent discovery of an ancient ocean and warm-water lakes on early Mars as well as the discovery of biologically-produced methane in the atmosphere of the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Meteorite Research Team reopened a 14-year-old controversy on extraterrestrial life, reaffirming and offering support for its widely challenged assertion that a 4-billion-year-old potato-sized meteorite that landed thousands of years ago on the Allen Hills region of Antarctica shows evidence of microscopic life on Mars. See article.
g Intelligence - Our brains contain a highly distorted model of our own bodies, according to scientists. See article.
g Message - Here’s a famous 1960 article from Freeman John Dyson: “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation”.
g Cosmicus - A new chief has been named to head the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute. See article.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why we’ll find ET on Europa first and lessons awaiting us from the perspective of space

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 - In the novel and film 2010, when the Monolith builders force Jupiter into nuclear ignition they also program poor put-upon HAL to broadcast, non-stop, "All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there." In the novel and film “2010,” when the Monolith builders force Jupiter into nuclear ignition they also program poor put-upon HAL to broadcast, non-stop, "All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there.” See article.
g Life - A new study shows that humans and tiny aquatic animals known as rotifers have something important in common when it comes to sex. See article.
g Message - Here’s a quick, easy to understand primer to SETI’s radio searches and the Fermi Paradox.
g Cosmicus - Apollo 8 first snapped a picture of the Earth “rising” above the Moon in the late 1960s. That picture showed us that the Earth is a precious cradle indeed, and the modern ecology movement was launched (coincidentally?) during that same time. What other lessons await us from the perspective of space? Perhaps it’s time we ventured out again and found out. See article. Note: This essay is from 2006.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Capsule may carry clues about solar system’s evolution and how to announce we’ve found 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 - Scientists recovered a Japanese space capsule that landed in the Australian Outback after it traveled to an asteroid and hopefully obtained samples with clues into the evolution of the solar system. See article.
g Intelligence - New research shows that the climate change of 12,000 years ago could have been the first catastrophic climate event attributed to humans. In modern times, humans are continuing to have profound effects on our planet, from wildfires to dramatic weather. See article.
g Learning - The universe evolved from the Big Bang to systems of galaxies, stars, and planets; these, including Earth, continue to evolve. Astronomers are teasing out the role of dark matter and dark energy. Life on Earth goes back at least 3.5 billion years as evidenced by fossilized stromatolites from Australia. Over that vast span of time, there’s evidence that life evolved from small single celled-organisms to the incredible diversity we see today. Scientific research continues to discover additional evidence that supports evolution as the fundamental description for how the physical universe and life developed in the past and will continue to change in the future. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book “The SETI Factor,” by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some exoworlds may be brown dwarfs and when the Earth/moon formed

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 - Six out of 133 exoplanets might actually be brown dwarfs, according to a new study. See article.
g Abodes - New study shows that the Earth and Moon may have been formed much later than previously believed. Understanding the history and formation of the Earth is important in determining the potential for habitable worlds around distant stars. See article.
g Intelligence - We have recorded humpbacks making sounds like the trumpeting of elephants, roars like lions, whistles like dolphins, clicks like the sperm whale, mooing like cows, chattering like monkeys, and several very human-like vocalizations – some even sounding like an unusual language, with exclamations like “whoops!” Although we are just beginning to document and classify all the diverse sounds of the humpback whales, we already expect its repertoire to exceed that of any other animal we have studied to date. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Aftermath - For some provocative reading, pick up “Sharing the Universe,” by Seth Shostak, at your local bookstore. SETI scientist Shostak almost single-handedly is outlining social and political issues that will arise once we make contact with extraterrestrials. See reviews.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Io’s habitability and odds of receiving message from 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 - Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Could it also be a habitat for life? See article.
g Intelligence - The differences in mothers' and fathers' interactions with their children, particularly in play situations, may influence toddlers' associations of specific behaviors with male and female genders. According to researchers, context, gender of the parent and gender of the child combine in a complex pattern to shape parent-child interaction. See article.
g Message - What are the chances that an alien signal has been sent our way just at the right moment to splash upon our antennas during that brief interval? If the extraterrestrials beam their broadcasts to the whole galaxy (or at least a big chunk of it), the chances are 100 percent. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Learning - You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker that states, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” There’s more than 3 million teachers in elementary, middle and high school classrooms teaching about 46 million children how to read, write, calculate, conduct experiments, observe the universe, and grow up to be good citizens. That’s a lot of people to thank, but thanks are not enough. See article.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Solar systems in the making and superintelligent ET

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 - For the first time, astronomers have observed distant solar systems in the making in great detail. The work provides an unprecedented view into the processes that give rise to stars and plants, and could help astrobiologists narrow the search for habitable planets. See article.
g Abodes - The paucity of organic compounds in Martian soil can be accounted for by efficient photocatalytic decomposition of carboxylated molecules due to the occurrence of the photo-Kolbe reaction at the surface of particulate iron(III) oxides that are abundant in the Martian regolith. See paper.
g Intelligence - Intelligent beings may have evolved on billions of planets and may have reached our own level of neurological and cognitive development billions of years before Earth became a twinkle in god's eye. See paper.
g Message - Here’s a neat interactive Web game where you analyze a signal from space, just as would a SETI astronomer See article.
g Aftermath - The images are vivid, capturing the essence of exploration. Archaeologists digging up the remains of long lost civilizations. Anthropologists encountering exotic cultures with strange languages. But do archaeologists and anthropologists have anything to teach the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, where encounters are at the distance of light-years, and a round-trip exchange could take millennia? See article. Note: This article is from 2005.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Exoplanet weather and understanding the evolution of multicellularity and photosynthesis

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 - Like the Earth, the other planets and moons in our solar system have their own characteristic local surface materials and weather conditions. Scientists wanting to get the most of space-probe visits to these remote places are developing a better understanding of their local parameters and are building appropriate detectors by visiting places on Earth similar to these astronomical bodies. See article.
g Life - With the world's first complete sequencing of a brown algal genome, an international research team has made a big leap towards understanding the evolution of two key prerequisites for higher life on Earth - multicellularity and photosynthesis. See article.
g Intelligence - A Spanish researcher and a Paraguayan scientist have presented the most complete and detailed European study into the repertoire of sounds used by bottlenose dolphins to communicate. The study reveals the complexity and our lack of understanding about the communication of these marine mammals. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a good introduction to learning about the characteristics of living things is to get the kids brainstorming as to what makes a living thing living: "Glue Critters".

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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 ABCNews.com. 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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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Telescope to study exoplanets goes online and developing a common language with 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 Stars - In our hectic world, we seldom have time enough for life: time for family, time for friends, or time for the pleasures of life. In studying the universe, Astrobiologists face a different problem: which stars might provide time enough for life? The answer depends on the life of the star. It may seem odd to speak of the life of a star, but stars go through processes akin to birth, maturity, and even death. It is the pacing of those stages in a stars life that determine whether biological life has a chance on an orbiting planet. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Abodes - The general rule for planetary stability in two-star systems is that the axis ratios should be greater than 3-to-1. This means that if two stars that orbit each other are fairly far apart, a planet could orbit one or the other at a distance of less than one-third their separation. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Message - A number of searches for extraterrestrial intelligence actually have occurred, are ongoing and are planned. Here’s one of the more famous ones: See Project BETA, at Harvard University.
g Cosmicus - Officials at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announce that a new robotic telescope has just seen its “first light” at the La Silla Observatory complex, in Chile. The TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) is especially designed to study exoplanetary systems, as in stars and their respective planets and moons that lie outside of our solar system. There are some chances that some of these worlds may have the necessary conditions for supporting some forms of life, and researchers are hopeful that investigating them may help advance the field of astrobiology. See article.
g Aftermath - To create interstellar messages that have a realistic chance of being understood across interstellar distances, we need to identify some information shared by humans and extraterrestrials. We need to identify a foundation for establishing a universal language that will let us bridge the gap between our world and theirs, all without the convenience of face-to-face contact. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Methane-based life on Tiran and beaming high-powered signals into space for ETI to hear

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 - With a mass of more than 10,000 suns packed into a volume with a diameter of a mere three light-years, the massive young star cluster in the nebula NGC 3603 is one of the most compact stellar clusters in the Milky Way and an ideal place to test theories for their formation. See article.
g Abodes - New analysis of complex chemical activity on Titan is raising questions about the potential for primitive, exotic life on the Saturnian moon. According to one theory, the chemical signatures fulfill two important conditions necessary for a hypothesized “methane-based life.” See article.
g Life - Scientists have discovered methane-eating bacteria that survive in a highly unique spring located on a remote Island in northern Canada. In some ways, the spring could be similar to environments on past or present Mars. See article.
g Message - Would anyone deliberately beam high-powered signals into space? Can we assume that extraterrestrial societies would broadcast in ways that would mark their location as plainly as a flag on a golf green? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - The proposed Europa Astrobiology Lander would perform astrobiology related exploration on the surface of Europa. Specific science goals and instruments would be decided by the findings of the Europa Jupiter System Mission, which is currently in development. See article.
g Learning - Kids love to make things explode in science class. How about an entire star? Thanks to NASA, supernovas will soon be going off in classrooms around the country-no safety glasses required. It's done via a DVD called Journey to the Stars. Teachers can request a free copy along with supporting lesson plans and activity sheets. See article.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Emphasizing to ET that we make mistakes and ‘Through the Wormhole’

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 - “Through the Wormhole” is a new series on the Science Channel that aims to explain cosmological questions.
g Abodes - Like the Earth, the other planets and moons in our solar system have their own characteristic local surface materials and weather conditions. Scientists wanting to get the most of space-probe visits to these remote places are developing a better understanding of their local parameters and are building appropriate detectors by visiting places on Earth similar to these astronomical bodies. See article.
g Intelligence - There are biological motivations behind the stereotypically poor decisions and risky behavior associated with adolescence, new research from a University of Texas at Austin psychologist reveals. See article.
g Message - Book alert: The father-son team of David E. Fisher and Marshall Jon Fisher brings the study of extraterrestrial life down to earth in “Strangers in the Night: Brief History of Life on Other Worlds”, an informative and entertaining book. In the anecdotal style that is their hallmark, the Fishers trace humankind’s attempts to discover life on other worlds. This informative and entertaining book tells the story of humankind’s attempts throughout history to discover extraterrestrial life.
g Learning - What is an astrobiologist, and can you become one? See article.
g Aftermath - Humans live and die by approximations. We are seldom as perfect or as accurate as we would like to be. And as we contemplate what we might say to an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, maybe that’s a point we should emphasize. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Non-acidic water on Mars and why we should discuss the social implications of discovering extraterrestrial life

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 Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has identified an outcrop of rock that only could have formed in water that was not acidic. The finding is crucial in understanding the planet's early climate and the potential for habitable environments on ancient Mars. See article.
g Life - NASA has announced it has selected two candidate proposals to study how life responds and adapts to space and microgravity for the agency's next Fundamental Space Biology Program "missions of opportunity." One project seeks to discover why bacteria become more virulent in space and another will study how tiny electrical currents in fern spores impact plant development in microgravity. See article.
g Message - For more than 80 years, we’ve been sending radio (and eventually television) transmissions into space, allowing anyone in space to hear war reports from London, “I Love Lucy” reruns and our latest election results. So wouldn’t hearing aliens be as simple as turning on the radio? See article.
g Cosmicus - The Falcon 9, the first of a new generation of private rockets that could one day make space travel commonplace, successfully launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday. See article.
g Learning - Tomorrow's scientists, engineers and mathematicians are in today's classrooms. There is increasing demand that all students study fundamental academics, including science, and pass examinations to advance and graduate from high school. But, beyond high school, will they choose to study science, mathematics and engineering to advance to careers in industry, research, business, and education? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Aftermath - Scientists should pay greater attention to discussing the social implications of discovering extraterrestrial life - even though many researchers shy away from the subject because they don't consider it "hard" science. See article.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

World for methane-based life and tumbleweed rovers

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 - Two new papers based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft scrutinize the complex chemical activity on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. While non-biological chemistry offers one possible explanation, some scientists believe these chemical signatures bolster the argument for a primitive, exotic form of life or precursor to life on Titan's surface. According to one theory put forth by astrobiologists, the signatures fulfill two important conditions necessary for a hypothesized "methane-based life." See article.
g Message - If you run an alien radio station, wielding a big antenna for “targeting” worlds known to have life, you’d better ping at least 100 thousand of those worlds if you hope to garner even one listener. See article.
g Cosmicus - A new computer model could help researchers develop better wind-powered 'tumbleweed' rovers for use on Mars. Such rovers could provide an energy-efficient way of exploring the martian surface and gathering further data concerning the potential for past or present life on Mars. See article.
g Learning - In “Leaves of Grass,” famed poet Walt Whitman wrote of a "strange huge meteor-procession." Now, using forensic astronomy, researchers may have rediscovered one of the most famous celestial events of Whitman's day. See article.
g Aftermath - Among the four operating principles of the NASA Astrobiology Roadmap, Principle 3 recognizes broad societal interest for the implications of astrobiology. Although several meetings have been convened in the past decade to discuss the implications of extraterrestrial intelligence, none has addressed the broader implications of astrobiology as now defined at NASA. Here’s a paper that surveys these societal questions, and argue that they deserve further serious study, in accordance with the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. Astrobiology, already an interdisciplinary field in terms of the physical and biological sciences, should now embrace the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences in order to explore its cultural implications. Such study is part of the general need for better dialogue between science and society. See article.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Welcome to Alien Life’s 2000th Post

Welcome! Since 2004, "Alien Life" has been tracking the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. This entry marks the blog’s 2000th post. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A new study of how climate conditions have affected the origin and evolution of life on Earth could provide clues to understanding how climates on alien planets might affect their potential for life. See article.
g Intelligence - It is inevitable. The muscles weaken. Hearing and vision fade. We get wrinkled and stooped. We can’t run, or even walk, as fast as we used to. We have aches and pains in parts of our bodies we never even noticed before. We get old. It sounds miserable, but apparently it is not. A large Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why. See article.
g Message - Its one thing to search for intelligent aliens, but it’s another to actually talk to those we might find. This isn’t just a matter of what language (if any!) to use, or even how to encode the information. Encoding for mutual understanding is merely a daunting technical challenge. For example, should we broadcast messages using pulse code modulation, AM radio, spread-spectrum techniques, or something we don’t have a name for yet? Until we pick up a signal, we really haven’t a clue. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Learning - "How does the physical and biological world change over time?" "What causes these changes and how fast do they occur?" "What is the evidence for change in living and physical systems?" These are core questions posed in “Voyages through Time,” a high school science curriculum from the SETI Institute that challenges students to consider the origin and development of the universe, our solar system, life on Earth, and us. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Aftermath - Would dutiful American citizens trust the government to handle first contact with extraterrestrials and rush to get information to the public? See article. Note: This article is from 1999.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Primer for decoding messages from extraterrestrials and virtual astronauts for the Moon and 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 - It's no longer a secret to anyone that water once existed on the surface of the Red Planet. Extensive analysis from rovers, landers and orbiters has made that abundantly clear. But while experts agree on that, they continue to debate on whether the planet was a warm world, or if the freezing temperatures it currently exhibits have been the norm there since Mars appeared. It is known that its atmosphere was a lot thicker in the past, right about the time when liquid water persisted on its surface. See article.
g Intelligence - Author Nicholas Carr believes that the Internet is a medium based on interruption — and it's changing the way people read and process information. We've come to associate the acquisition of wisdom with deep reading and solitary concentration, and he says there's not much of that to be found online. See article.
g Message - Will we ever find a primer for decoding messages from extraterrestrials? In 2005, anthropologists who gathered for a major conference in Atlanta heard some news that will be sobering for SETI enthusiasts: It may be much more difficult to understand extraterrestrials than many scientists have thought before. See article.
g Cosmicus - An international team of researchers shuttered themselves inside a virtual spacecraft in Russia Thursday to begin a 520-day simulation of a manned mission to Mars. See article.
g Learning - More than 37 years after humans last walked on the moon, planetary scientists are inviting members of the public to return to the lunar surface as "virtual astronauts" to help answer important scientific questions. See Moon Zoo.
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising from the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See paper.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Physical and chemical limits for life on Earth and SETI alternatives

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 - There is a lot we don't yet understand about climate change, but humankind's influence on the Earth is becoming more and more apparent. Studying our effect will help us understand life's future on Earth. See article.
g Life - One of the prominent goals of astrobiology is to discover life or signs of life on planets beyond Earth. To approach this goal, it will be useful to know the physical and chemical limits for life on Earth and, perhaps more importantly, to understand the underlying biophysical characteristics of life that set these limits. Such knowledge would allow us to make educated guesses— based on remote measurements of physical and chemical parameters alone— about the likelihood of finding life on other planets. See article.
g Intelligence - The speed of your smile can shape the first impressions others have of you, according to a new research. See article.
g Message - On an episode of “The Space Show” from 2005, Scot Stride, a senior engineer at NASA JPL in Pasadena, Calif., was the guest for this Space Show program. Stride discussed SETI programs with us and highlighted his discussion with the SETI alternatives, SETV (Search for ET Visitation) and S3ETI (Solar System SETI). Stride provided listeners with a superb background and history on SETI, how it started and how it became what it is today. He also discussed the Allen Telescope Array and what it will mean for future SETI efforts. Hear a copy of the show.
g Learning - If there was a rogue planet hurtling towards us, we'd be able to see it. See article.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Understanding Mars’ climate to find ET and filling the gap in space exploration

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 - Mars is frozen today, but when it was young there may have been liquid water on its surface. What does the latest evidence indicate about the ancient Martian climate? Understanding the past environment of Mars can help future missions “follow the water” in the search for alien life. See article.
g Life - At first glance, studying an endangered species may seem off target for the SETI Institute astronomer, whose special expertise is planet detection. See article.
g Intelligence - People who were listening to Mozart in the hope of boosting their intelligence, can stop - as according to scientists the Austrian composer’s creations won’t make you smart. See article.
g Cosmicus - Leading space entrepreneurs said they are ready, willing and able to fill the U.S. spaceflight gap after NASA retires its space shuttles this year. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of classroom lessons courtesy of NASA: Moon Math. Moon Math is a software application where users investigate lunar habitat design through learning the mathematical concepts of area, volume and proportion using geometric shapes.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Contact with ETI via radio and companies team up to build moon landers

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 - Cosmic material that has settled on the moon over billions of years could shed light on where a peculiar type of nitrogen in our solar system came from, a new study suggests. See article.
g Intelligence - Looking at the last term of the Drake Equation, we see that it relates to the lifetime of technological civilizations – how long they last as technological (meaning interstellar communicating) entities. The three biggest considerations for our civilization at the moment could be characterized as a) getting along with each other, b) getting along with the environment, and c) staying technologically alert for large-scale concerns from space. As an example of the last, the dinosaurs had over 200 million years to develop a comet deflector, but never did so. Some dinosaurs were bipedal, had opposable claws, and were pretty intelligent—so why didn’t they, for example, invent space travel? Well, that’s a topic for another essay. Meanwhile, let’s stick to a few of the things we might want to deal with “out there” at various times in the future, from a few thousand to a few billion years from now. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Message - Visiting another civilization on a distant world would be fascinating, but at present such a trip is beyond our capabilities. However, it is perfectly within our capabilities to develop a communications system using a powerful transmitter and a sensitive receiver, and using it to search the sky for alien worlds whose citizens have a similar inclination. See article.
g Cosmicus - Two California companies, one a rocket engine builder and the other a mock moon lander champion, have teamed up to develop new private unmanned vehicles that NASA could send to the moon, Mars and asteroids. See article.
g Learning - Although it defaults to Norway, aspiring space explorers at Stig’s Sky Calendar can pick their (or their closest) international city to see what sights they can expect for almost any month in the past, present, or future.

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