Thursday, January 31, 2013

Could life exist around hydrothermal vents on Europa?

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 - Before 1977, textbooks claimed that to sustain a living ecosystem, you needed energy from the Sun. Then the deep sea submersible Alvin discovered life teeming at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. This led scientists to wonder if similar life could be found on Europa. See article.
g Life - A new study is helping cientists understand whether or not the relationship between animals and lush vegetation was the same in ancient ecosystems as it is today. See article.
g Message - Here’s a nice primer on the seti@home project plus some information about how to download the program. See article.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life in Mars’ and Europa’s salt deposits?

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 - Researchers have identified microorganisms that live inside salt deposits in the acidic and ferrous environment of the Tinto River in Huelva, Spain. The extreme conditions of these microniches appear to be similar to those of the salt deposits on Mars and Jupiter’s moon, Europa. See article.
g Life - Astrobiologists have built a series of glass tubes and valves with a laser and a detector system that mimics the conditions at hydrothermal vents. The system detects compounds coming from the simulated vent and will help determine if biologically important molecules are being formed. 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.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Potential habitability of nearby star Vega

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 - What is the potential habitability of the nearby star Vega? See article.
g Abodes - A new paper explains the unexpected qualities of the surface of Titan as experienced by the Huygens probe when it landed on the moon eight years ago. In January 2005, Huygens came to rest on Saturn's largest moon after bouncing, sliding and wobbling across its surface. See article.
g Message - Want to get a sense of SETI’s history and varying projects? Jodrell Bank Observatory offers an easy to follow yet informative primer.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Exomoons likely to also support 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 - A new study finds that exomoons are just as likely to support life as exoplanets. The research focuses on the potential for moons around giant exoplanets that orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. See article.
g Message - Whenever the director of SETI research presents a public lecture, she can almost guarantee that “What If everybody is listening and nobody is transmitting?” will be one of the questions the audience asks. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - ESA is appealing for research ideas to help guide the development of a US–European asteroid deflection mission now under study. See article.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to ‘advertise’ our presence 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 - Strange, newly discovered structures in Venus' atmosphere are redrawing scientists' perceptions of the planet's magnetic environment. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to replace the cumbersome "metal cans" that now serve as astronauts' homes in space with inflatable bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap. See article.
g Aftermath - It is sometimes said that the best form of advertising is education. But what products would our global marketplace tolerate at the borders of an encounter with another, perhaps far different civilization? To get some perspective, an expert entertains the question of how to advertise our presence to a more universal demographic. See article. Note: This article came out in 2004.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Titan’s blocks of floating hydrocarbon ice

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 study shows that blocks of hydrocarbon ice may float on the surface of Titan's seas and lakes. See article.
g Cosmicus - Don Pettit, member of the Expedition 31 crew, continues his documentation of life on the space station. In this installment, he talks about how astronauts maintain their health and the etiquette of a dinner with friends in microgravity. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web game where you analyze a signal from space, just as would a SETI astronomer.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Most Earth-like yet exoplanet discovered

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 possible alien planet discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope is the most Earth-like world yet detected beyond our solar system, scientists say. See article.
g Message - Since SETI first became a subject for serious scientific research, scientists have come up with many possible ways to detect the presence of other civilizations by searching our part of the galaxy for signs of artificially created signals. Using many different kinds of detection equipment and novel concepts, investigators labored away in their electronics laboratories and observatories dreaming, that one day, the signs they had been searching for would be found. See article.
g Cosmicus - Observations of the asteroid Apophis as it recently approached Earth show that the asteroid is bigger and less reflective than scientists had thought. See article.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vega’s asteroid belt

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 discovered what appears to be a large asteroid belt around the star Vega. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers have reported the discovery of six possible comets around distant stars. The study suggests that 'exocomets' could be as common as planets in other stellar systems. See article.
g Message - When the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft were launched in 1977, they each included a gold-plated phonograph record (a "golden record") of natural sounds, greetings in human voices, and a variety of music. The record cover has symbolic instructions that show how to use and understand the record, though scientists still debate whether other civilizations will be able to decipher them. For info on Voyager’s golden record, click here. For an explanation of the record cover diagram, click here. For an interactive module that contains greetings, sounds, and pictures included on the record (requires Flash plug-in), click here.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Primer for decoding messages from extraterrestrials

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 - Researchers using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured new images of a seven light-year-diameter ring of gas and dust surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, and of a neighboring cluster of extremely luminous young stars embedded in dust cocoons. See article.
g Cosmicus - This series follows an oceanographic expedition to the Mid-Cayman Rise, and NASA’s efforts to plan a future mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. See article.
g Aftermath - Will we ever find a primer for decoding messages from extraterrestrials? Recently, 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.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

‘Zombie’ planet orbits Fomalhaut

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 unbalanced orbit of a so-called "zombie planet" in a dusty star system has astronomers struggling to explain the exoplanet's behavior. See article.
g Life - For the first time, scientists have traced a pathway that leads from rocks, water and carbon to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells. See article.
g Aftermath - Here’s an interesting book for some astrobiological reading: “After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life” by Albert A. Harrison.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Kepler finds abother 461 planet candidates

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 discovered what appears to be colossal belch from a massive black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy. The outburst was 10 times as bright as the biggest star explosion, scientists say. See article.
g Abodes - NASA's Kepler mission has announced the discovery of 461 new planet candidates. Four of the potential new planets are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's "habitable zone." See article.
g Message - Scientifically speaking, are UFOs worth keeping an eye on? Not exactly. See article.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to become an astrobiologist

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - A Japanese-led team of scientists has captured on film the world's first live images of a giant squid, journeying to the depths of the ocean in search of the mysterious creature thought to have inspired the myth of the "kraken", a tentacled monster. See article.
g Message - Here’s a good primer to astrobiology that discusses what is astrobiology, lists the types of questions astrobiology seeks to answer, describes how one can become an astrobiologist, and recommends some books in the field. See article.
g Cosmicus - Don Pettit, member of the Expedition 31 crew, continues to document the life of a zucchini grown in orbit on the International Space Station. Studying how plants grow in space can help astrobiologists understand how Earth life adapts to the space environment. See article.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Distant binary stars disrupt their planets’ orbits

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 - An international team of astrophysicists has shown that planetary systems with very distant binary stars are particularly susceptible to violent disruptions, more so than if they had stellar companions with tighter orbits around them. See article.
g Message - Is anyone out there? The chance of spotting signals from extraterrestrials is about to soar, say SETI Institute scientists, who, together with radio astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley have begun building the first telescope to look around the clock for life on other planets. See article.
g Cosmicus - An engineer is petitioning the White House to study the possibility of building a real-life starship Enterprise like the fictional vessel in television's "Star Trek." See article.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Help discover planets around distant stars

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 - Want to discover planets around other stars? Now you can do so from the comfort of your own home. See article.
g Message - Book alert: In response to Enrico Fermi's famous 1950 question concerning the existence of advanced civilizations elsewhere, physicist Stephen Webb in “If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life” critically examines 50 resolutions to explain the total absence of empirical evidence for probes, starships, and communications from extraterrestrials. He focuses on our Milky Way Galaxy, which to date has yielded no objects or signals that indicate the existence of alien beings with intelligence and technology. His comprehensive analysis covers topics ranging from the Drake equation and Dyson spheres to the panspermia hypothesis and anthropic arguments. Of special interest are the discussions on the DNA molecule, the origin of life on Earth, and the threats to organic evolution on this planet (including mass extinctions). Webb himself concludes that the "great silence" in nature probably results from humankind's being the only civilization now in this galaxy, if not in the entire universe. This richly informative and very engaging book is recommended for most academic and public library science collections. For reviews, see article.
g Cosmicus - An incredible new set of visualisations has imagined what Mars would look like were it transformed into a “living” planet, complete with oceans and forests. See article.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fifteen planets candidates found in habitable zones

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 - Volunteers from the Planethunters.org website, part of the Oxford University-led Zooniverse project, have discovered 15 new planet candidates orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars. See article.
g Cosmicus - Astronomers have confirmed that there is no risk of the asteroid 2011 AG5 impacting Earth in 2040. See article.
g Imagining - In nearly all popular science fiction dramatizations on television, most of the alien protagonists look remarkably like humans. In "Star Trek," if you forgave the Vulcan's their ears (and their hair-styles), the Klingons their foreheads and the Bajorans their ridged noses you'd think that they were all human. After all, they have two legs, two arms, 10 fingers and toes, two ears, two eyes and a nose. And while arms and eyes are universals, two arms and two legs are parochial. See article.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Providing carbon to protoplanets

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 protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn's year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge impacts not only altered Vesta's shape, but also its surface composition. Scientists under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau in Germany have shown that impacting small asteroids delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet. In the early days of our solar system, similar events may have provided the inner planets such as Earth with carbon, an essential building block for organic molecules. See article.
g Life - A new study shows that diversity of marine fauna ballooned in response to climate fluctuations following Earth's largest known mass extinction. Over time, however, climate change adversely affected biodiversity and species went extinct. See article.
g Message - The Harvard SETI Group have conducted several searches for extraterrestrial life since 1978. For a history of those searches, see article.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aliens and humans will think similarily

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 - For the first time, astronomers have witnessed a key stage in the birth of giant planets around a young star. See article.
g Imagining - Ever wondered how all those traditional space-opera and epic-fantasy races - the pig-faced warriors, the smug bumheads, and all the rest - came up with their wonderfully clich├ęd alien vocabularies? It's not difficult; once you've mastered these basic rules, you'll be able to produce names and phrases just as stereotypical as theirs. See article
g Aftermath - When we first meet extraterrestrials, will we and they be able to converse? An MIT professor argues that we will — provided they are motivated to cooperate — because we'll both think similar ways. See article. Note: This article is from 1985.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Martian meteorite contains water

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 - Researchers have identified a new class of Martian meteorite that likely originated from Mars' crust. The meteorite used in the study was also dated to the early Amazonian epoch on Mars and contains more water than any other Martian meteorite yet found. See article.
g Life - A University of Alberta researcher's examination of fossilized dinosaur tail bones has led to a breakthrough finding: some feathered dinosaurs used tail plumage to attract mates, much like modern-day peacocks and turkeys. See article.
g Intelligence - You're standing in line somewhere and you decide to open a pack of gum. Do you share a piece with the coworker standing to one side of you, or with the stranger on the other? See article.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

100 billion planets may populate Milky Way

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 research provides more evidence that planetary systems are the norm. In fact, the study's authors claim that there are at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone. See article.
g Learning - The astrobiology community deeply mourns the loss of Dr. Carl Woese, the University of Illinois microbiology professor credited with the discovery of a “third domain” of life. He died on Sunday, December 30th at his home. He was 84. See article.
g Imagining - The students of Prof. Joan Slonczewski, who taught “Biology 103: Biology in Science Fiction” at Kenyon College in 2003, using astrobiological principles, attempted to create a number of plausible alien civilizations and worlds as a class project. Here’s one of them: the denizens of Planet Altoid.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Planets forming around newborn star

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 - Astronomers studying a newborn star have caught a detailed glimpse of planets forming around it, revealing a never-before seen stage of planetary evolution. See article.
g Message - This year marks a double anniversary in the search for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It was 25 years ago last month that the SETI Institute began its work to see if we are alone in the universe or one among many intelligences populating the stars. Note: This article is from 2010.See article.
g Aftermath - How do we explain human aesthetics to extraterristrial civilizations? Listen to podcast.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Volcanoes may be active on Venus

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 European Space Agency’s Venus Express has detected a sharp decline in sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations in the planet’s atmosphere following a spike in SO2 just after the probe arrived in 2006. The most plausible explanation, says lead author Emmanuel Marcq, is a volcanic eruption, caught in the act. See article.
g Cosmicus - Researchers at the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, have developed a life-sized hologram-like telepod that uses Microsoft's Kinect System and a cylindrical display for live, 3D videoconferencing. See article.
g Aftermath - The scientific discussion of the evolution of life in the universe raises some key philosophical and theological issues: Will life and intelligence be found throughout the universe, or will it turn out to be exceedingly rare? Will intelligent life be capable of both rationality and moral agency? Will evolutionary biology determine its moral content or will it merely bequeath intelligent life with moral capacity, leaving moral content to be determined independently of biology? If moral agency evolves, will these species inevitably exhibit moral failure, or is our generic human experience of moral failure strictly the result of our particular evolution, leaving us to expect there to be other civilizations that are entirely benign? The discussion of these issues, though largely hypothetical, can offer insight into the theological and cultural implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence as well into a better understanding of the human condition. See article.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Space travel may be dangerous to brain

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Intelligence - Much has been made of our ancestors "coming down out of the trees," and many researchers view terrestrial bipedalism as the hallmark of "humanness." After all, most of our living primate relatives - the great apes, specifically - still spend their time in the trees. Humans are the only member of the family devoted to the ground, living terrestrial rather than arboreal lives, but that wasn't always the case. See article.
g Cosmicus - As if space travel was not already filled with enough dangers, a new study out today in the journal PLOS ONE shows that cosmic radiation - which would bombard astronauts on deep space missions to places like Mars - could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease. See article.
g Aftermath - Philosophers and former politicians joined an elite group of scientists whose job it is to work out how to respond to signals from extraterrestrial intelligence. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Secret to delaying aging process?

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - Scientists in Hong Kong appear to have mapped out a formula that can delay the aging process in mice, a discovery they hope to replicate in people. See article.
g Message - How did the SETI program come to be? See a timeline of the program’s history.
g Cosmicus - The country that oversaw the launch of the world's first artificial satellite hopes to regain some of its former glory with a big boost in space spending announced by Russia after a series of failures. See article.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Are aliens broadcasting to us?

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - With a new planet-wide analysis of vertebrate life, an international team has used 21st century science to update an iconic 1876 map of Earth’s zoological regions. See article.
g Intelligence - Got milk? Ancient European farmers who made cheese thousands of years ago certainly had it. But at that time, they lacked a genetic mutation that would have allowed them to digest raw milk's dominant sugar, lactose, after childhood. 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.

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Monday, January 07, 2013

Build your own alien world

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 - Like finding a silver needle in the haystack of space, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced a beautiful image of the spiral galaxy IC 2233, one of the flattest galaxies known. See article.
g Cosmicus - A comet blazing toward Earth could outshine the full moon when it passes by at the end of the year - if it survives its close encounter with the sun. See article.
g Imagining - Have you ever wanted to build your own alien world? Now you can! See article.

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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Astronomers predict they’ll find first Earth-like world this year

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 - Some people are in great shape at the age of 90, while others are decrepit before they're 50. We know that how fast people age is only loosely linked to how old they actually are - and may have more to do with their lifestyle. A new study with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals that the same is true of star clusters. See article.
g Abodes - The first truly Earth-like alien planet is likely to be spotted this year, an epic discovery that would cause humanity to reassess its place in the universe. See article.
g Aftermath - At some point we may discover intelligent alien life. Upon finding clear evidence that intelligent life exists and that we could conceivably communicate with them on their planet, what should we do and what would we do? See article.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

How proof of extraterrestrial intelligence would affect humanity’s ‘world’ view

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - In the period just before they went extinct, the American lions and saber-toothed cats that roamed North America in the late Pleistocene were living well off the fat of the land. See article.
g Intelligence - A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human evolution. See article.
g Aftermath - How would proof of extraterrestrial intelligence affect humanity’s “world” view? Astronomer Steve Dick discusses the matter in this transcribed Smithsonian Institute lecture, from 1999, at http://www.sil.si.edu/silpublications/dibner-library-lectures/extraterrestrial-life/etcopy-kr.htm.

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Friday, January 04, 2013

Did life emerge from cell membrane bioenergetics?

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 research team led by biogeochemists at the University of California, Riverside has tested a popular hypothesis in paleo-ocean chemistry, and proved it false. See article.
g Life - A coherent pathway - which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells - has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper. See article.
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See article.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Crafting a message for extraterrestrial civilizations

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 - Volcanic activity can cause short-term variations in climate. Now, new research shows that the reverse is also true. See article.
g Cosmicus - New calculations indicate that seeing infertile areas of the oceans would cause enough of an increase in photosynthesizing marine life to address carbon emissions. See article.
g Aftermath - If we find other civilizations, what will we say to them? Crafting a message that represents Earth and humanity and can be understood by another life form is no minor endeavor. SETI Institute psychologist Douglas Vakoch has been charged with this formidable task, and has enlisted the help of mathematicians, artists, astronomers and anthropologists. Hear the messages he helped compose and learn about the thinking behind them.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Spiral disk around young star

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 captured clear, detailed images of a disk around a young star. Within the disk is a spiral structure with two clearly discernible arms, and the team believes this shape may be caused by planets. See article.
g Abodes - A new study indicates that clay minerals cover a larger portion of Mars than previously thought. Clay minerals usually form when water is present for long periods of time, and they could help astrobiologists understand the potential for habitable environments on ancient Mars. See article.
g Aftermath - Epicurus, in the fourth century BC, believed that the universe contained other worlds like our own, and since his time there has been considerable debate whether extraterrestrial life exists and might communicate with us. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See article

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A New Year's Resolution for Astrobiology

As the new year begins, let us all make a resolution: We will work to make humanity a truly space-faring race. For the past half-century, we’ve ventured into space as if children wading a few feet into a great ocean. But there are other islands out there — and now is the time to swim.

This blog is dedicated to one event that very well may compel us to becoming a space-faring race: contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. It is a serious site; you won’t find a discussion of UFOs and the Fifth Dimension’s denizens here. Instead, it updates readers daily of the latest scientific advances in a number of fields related to the multidisciplinary study of astrobiology.

Its sections are loosely arranged around the now famous Drake equation, developed by astronomer Frank Drake, who conducted the first modern search for extraterrestrial life in 1960. The equation seeks to determine the number of technological civilizations that might exist among the stars:

R * FP * NE * FL * FI * FC * LN = N

In the equation, R is the mean rate of star formation averaged over the lifetime of the galaxy; FP the fraction of stars with planetary systems; NE the mean number of planets per system with environments suitable for the origin of life; FL the fraction of such planets on which life does develop; FI the fraction of such planets on which intelligent life rises during the lifetime of the local sun; FC the fraction of planets on which advanced technical civilizations rises; L the lifetime of this technical civilization; and N the number of advanced technical civilizations emitting detectable radio signals.

This blog’s sections and the general topics addressed in each one include:
g Stars - Cosmology and astronomy, which affect our understanding of the mean rate of star formation averaged over the lifetime of the galaxy and the fraction of stars with planetary systems, or R and FP in the equation
g Abodes - Geology and Earth climate, which helps us grasp the mean number of planets per system with environments suitable for the origin of life, or NE in the equation
g Life - Biology, especially the evolution of life, as well as chemistry and other sciences that advance our understanding of the fraction of such planets on which life does develop, or FL in the equation
g Intelligence - How homo sapiens and, more generally, intelligence evolves, to help us determine the fraction of such planets on which intelligent life rises during the lifetime of the local sun, or FI in the equation
g Message - A discussion of our attempts to communicate with our other intelligences, to increase our knowledge of the fraction of planets on which advanced technical civilizations rises, or FC in the equation
g Cosmicus - Humanity's climb to the status of a space-faring civilization, a necessary step to increase the lifetime of this technical civilization, or L in the equation; the term “cosmicus” comes from the father of Russian astronautics, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who envisioned humanity becoming “homo cosmicus” or a space-faring civilization — we will become “homo cosmicus” when the first human is born, lives, grows old and dies in space, returning to Earth only as a visitor
g Learning - Science education, as humanity's future and astrobiology's success depends upon a science-literate youth and public; it also is a necessary step to increase the lifetime of this technical civilization, or L in the equation
g Imagining - This section consists of musings on the possibilities of science fiction aliens as science fiction offers a literary portal for us to examine elements of the Drake Equation; I’ll primarily focus on “Star Trek,” the most popular and serious of the science fiction genre
g Aftermath - Looking beyond the Drake Equation is perhaps the most important question that will face humanity in the century ahead: “What will happen after we make contact with aliens?”; this section offers the latest speculations

I hope each of you will return daily to stay current with astrobiology — and that it may inspire you to work toward cosmicus.


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