Monday, May 02, 2011

Voyager probes set to leave solar system and Star Trek’s Kaylar

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 Wales and the Netherlands, in collaboration with five schools, have used eight telescopes simultaneously to study the strange behaviour of an X-ray binary star system. See article.
g Life - Two groups of small fish, one from a Caribbean island and one from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, exhibit some of the fastest rates of evolution known in any organism, according to a new study. See article.
g Intelligence - Changes in brain anatomy and the resulting ability to fully exploit electric signal space did indeed lead to rapid speciation, according to a new study. See article.
g Message - The search for extraterrestrial life need not be limited to the government or scientists. Don’t believe it? Then check out this Web site, “Amateur SETI: Project BAMBI (Bob and Mike’s Big Investment),” which describes the design and construction of a 4 GHz amateur radio telescope dedicated to SETI. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA's twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are the longest continuously-operating spacecraft in deep space. They have provided invaluable information about the nature of our solar system and the planets it contains. See article.
g Imagining - Could the Kaylar, a Star Trek alien from “The Original Series’ pilot episode, “The Cage,” exist? Like the Gorn, this alien appears to be drawn from our nightmares and hence serves a more dramatic effect than offering any speculation on exobiology. A tall humanoid with intriguing jaw features, skinny legs and broad shoulders, the Kaylar on Rigel VII is reminiscent of a barbarian warrior or an ogre. Brushing aside the nearly impossible parallel evolution between Earth and the Kaylar’s home world for such a creature to come about, there are a couple of possible ways that it could have gained its great height and skinny legs. Its planet might have lighter gravity, which means an indigent alien wouldn’t fall as hard as we do on Earth; hence the supporting legs would not need to be as strong to hold up a little more weight than the typical human. In addition, we might speculate that as a humanoid, the Kaylar shared a similar primate evolution as humans, so possibly the savannah grass of its continental cradle simply was taller than on the African plain during the past few million years; that would have given taller proto-Kaylar an evolutionary advantage. Still, the Kaylar appears to be an unlikely alien.
g Aftermath - From the archives: There’s a neat transcription of a video conference interview with Dr. Frank Drake (whose famous equation this site is organized after), conducted by the class members of Penn State’s "Space Colonization” class. Drake touches on a variety of SETI topics, including the philosophical implication of extraterrestrial contact. The interview took place in 2001.

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