Friday, January 14, 2011

How hot-Jupiter systems evolve and trends in popular culture about first contact

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 Jupiter-like alien planet that feeds momentum to its host star may help astronomers understand how a class of solar systems form and evolve, scientists report. See article.
g Abodes - Earth's climate could take 100,000 years or longer to recover from rising CO2 if we don't mitigate our carbon emissions. Scientists studying one ancient bout of global warming 56 million years ago found that CO2 took about 30,000 to 40,000 years to settle out of the atmosphere. See article.
g Life - Studying heat-loving microbes living under extreme conditions in hydrothermal sites at Yellowstone National Park might help answer some of the most important questions that scientists have ever asked about life as we know or can imagine it. That includes the question of whether there might be life on planets and moons elsewhere in the universe. See article.
g Intelligence - Scientists have found that the pleasurable experience of listening to music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain important for more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex. See article.
g Imagining - Another early “Star Trek” alien is the Exo III android makers. We really don’t know what the android creators (aka “the Old Ones”) looked like, but we can presume by the way human duplicates were created with the android-making machine that they appear like Ruk (click here and look for photo with caption “Ruk is shot by phaser”). Their height indicates that the planet’s gravity is slightly lighter than Earth’s, and there isn’t a discernable difference in the way humans step on this world. Possibly the savanna grass was taller than in our Africa (their hominid shape indicates a primate-oriented evolution). The whitish pallor probably is due to the lack of sunlight (though not the cold, as that also would make their bodies more compact); the aliens did go underground when a global ice age gripped their world. One interesting question is if they possessed the ability to build androids, why didn’t they just leave their planet when its habitability was lowered? Perhaps some religious or cultural belief prevented them from considering or pursuing space travel; possibly they developed the android-making machine when residing underground. While the show’s creators did a good job of making the Old Ones evolutionarily sound given the world’s climate of the past several eons, the aliens fall short on the Earth vertebrate factor: It’s highly unlikely that the exact facial arrangements as those of Earth’s vertebrates when first leaving the water for land would be so exactly duplicated.
g Aftermath - For one futurist’s thoughts about what will happen to humanity when we make first contact with aliens, click here. I offer this site not for its scientific rigor but as an example of something all of us who care about astrobiology should consider: What are the trends in popular culture about first contact? Such thinking will greatly influence public reaction when first contact actually does occur.

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