Thursday, April 28, 2011

What SETI is (or was) searching for and Star Trek’s Talosians

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 cutting-edge experiment hunting for antimatter galaxies and signs of dark matter that was very nearly cancelled is finally poised to voyage into orbit aboard the next-to-last space shuttle mission. See article.
g Abodes - Greenhouse gases have increased more frequently in Earth's history than previously believed. Fluxes involved a significant exchange of carbon between surface reservoirs and the atmosphere. Higher levels of CO2 affect nutrient uptake by planets, which could cause problems as the modern climate continues to heat up. See article.
g Life - Fifty million-year-old fossils from ancestors of today's dugongs are helping scientists understand the temperature and composition of the waters in which they swam. The study is providing new information about climate change events, both ancient and modern. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers at Brown University have found that specific genetic variations can predict how persistently people will believe advice they are given, even when it is contradicted by experience. See article.
g Message - What sort of signal would satisfactorily announce an extraterrestrial intelligence as detected by radio-emission or light reception (if SETI were searching anymore for alien signals, that is)? See article.
g Cosmicus - As suborbital jaunts to space promise to become available soon to anyone with a couple hundred thousand dollars to spare, I can tell those considering a trip: You're in for a wild ride. See article.
g Imagining - Star Trek’s very first alien, the Talosians
, pose quite an evolutionary challenge: Their heads are oversized because of large, powerful brains capable of telepathy and even mind control of others. First off, a brain of that size must demand a lot of energy. This is somewhat addressed through the large arteries and veins apparent on their bald heads; their frail bodies also indicate fewer cells below the neckline for oxygen-carrying blood to support. But they probably also need greater lung capacity to cycle more oxygen into their bodies as well as a larger heart for pumping that oxygen-laden blood to and through the brain. Their bodies don’t indicate larger lungs, however. Another problem with their head/brain size is giving birth. The enormity of the head is limited by the size and shape of the pelvis — and their human shape and gait indicates they couldn’t give birth to an infant with a head any larger than ours. A possibility is that their the brain primarily develops outside of the womb; perhaps they grow in their telepathic powers as they age. Another possibility: They are not born naturally but artificially created, indicating a separation from among the most basic instincts – mating. The Talosians, after all, are fairly unimaginative creatures, dependent upon probing the minds of others for new experiences! As for their telepathic and power of illusion capabilities, we’ll just have to presume that somehow their brain lobes have evolved sections capable of connecting and interacting across the medium of air with another creature’s neurons.
g Aftermath - Here’s one common man’s musings on the consequences for society if extraterrestrial intelligence is discovered: "Inevitably society would change should extraterrestrial intelligence be discovered. The question is to what extent. We might react in the same way we did with the new millennium when it was imminent, but it proved to be much ado about almost nothing. The same may be true for the discovery of one or more extraterrestrial civilizations. On the other hand, the extreme opposite is a scenario where all of our worst fears are fulfilled." See article.

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