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Search for Intraterrestrial Life Scores Big

Single-celled organisms may be tiny, but what they lack in bulk they make up for in volume and importance.  Scientists have been appreciating more than ever the ubiquitous presence of microbes on our planet and the roles they play to sustain the biosphere.     PhysOrg reported that half of the world’s life may lie […]

Who Should Be Listening to Scientists?

“Stop Listening to Scientists?” is an unusual title for a letter to Science.1  In a commentary last week prompted by the recent scandals regarding climate change, Kevin Robert Gurney (Purdue) made a shocking exclamation: don’t listen to scientists.  Here’s how he began. As a climate scientist and a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on […]

SETI, Miracles, and Comfort

Would knowledge that the universe is filled with aliens bring you comfort?  Or are you more comfortable thinking humans are alone in the universe?  Seth Shostak, director of the SETI Institute, was interviewed briefly by Bill Hemmer on Fox News this morning, where only one answer to this idea was assumed.     Shostak came […]

Aliens Invade Science News

What are aliens doing in science news reports?  There is no evidence they even exist.  That has not hindered some scientists from speculating.  BBC News reporters Pallab Ghosh headlined an entry “Astronomers hopeful of detecting extra-terrestrial life,” and adorned it with a Hollywood-style alien corpse.  The article highlighted the optimism of Lord Rees, the president […]

Fermi Paradox Reasserts Itself

Paul Davies, no stranger to facing difficult questions and proposing imaginative solutions, is coming out with a new book in April about SETI.  In it, he tackles the Fermi Paradox: if aliens are out there, why haven’t they dropped by yet?  Amazon.com lists some of the ideas to be presented in The Eerie Silence: Renewing […]

SETI Will Turn 50 in 2010

There hasn’t been much news about SETI lately, but expect more in the coming year.  In April 1960, 50 years ago, Frank Drake began the first SETI search with radio telescopes called Project Ozma (see SETI Institute description).  No undeniable signal of intelligent origin was found that year or in the 50 years since, despite […]

Is SETI Morphing Its Mission?

Look at the mission statement at the website of the SETI Institute: “The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe.”  What happened to the aliens?  The word “intelligence” is not found in their mission statement.  It sounds indistinguishable from the mission […]

Can SETI Be Quantified?

What is the probability of finding intelligent life on other planets?  In 1960, Frank Drake attempted to quantify that question with his famous Drake Equation (see MSNBC and NOVA, which allows you to estimate the probability with an interactive meter).  Trouble is, Stanley Miller and Leslie Orgel of primordial soup fame thought it was meaningless.  […]

Twitter the ET Bandwidth Wagon

If you have nothing better to do, send a message to an alien.  Leonard David reported on Space.com that a website in Australia is collecting messages to beam up to a planet named Gliese 581d that is 20.3 light-years away.  Even a Senator who is Australia’s Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research got involved.  […]

Aliens Are Not Bodybuilders

Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute is willing to bet “dollars to Devil Dogs that any extraterrestrials we detect won’t be muscular guys with deep voices and corrugated foreheads, or even big-eyed, hairless grays.”  It all has to do with the way evolution works.     In the weekly SETI column for Space.com, Shostak opined […]

Origin-of-Life Researchers Caught Playing With Toys

A “virtual primordial soup” cooks up life in a computer program in a “toy universe,” according to reporter Leslie Mullen at Space.com.  She wrote, “The power of computer processing could one day solve the riddle of life’s origin.”     EvoGrid is “a computer creation concept that would be a digital version of the primordial […]

“Social Brain Hypothesis” Discredited

According to evolutionary theory, the extra processing required for living in social groups should make brains bigger.  Not so, found a couple of scientists who looked into the question.  There’s no general correlation.     According to Live Science, John Finarelli (University of Michigan) and John Flynn (American Museum of Natural History in New York) […]

SETI Invites Alien Talk

They may not be saying much to us, but we can think about what to say to them – aliens, that is.  Space.com reported on the latest project from the SETI Institute: invite people all over the world to ponder, “What would you say to an extraterrestrial civilization?”     The SETI Institute is launching […]

Publish Your Kooky Idea

Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute has a solution for sorting science from pseudoscience: publish.  In the weekly SETI article for April 16 on Space.com, he said he gets lots of wacky theories in the mail and email.  What’s the best way to sift through claims and find the gems?  Publication.     Shostak acknowledged […]

Kepler On the Way to Search for Earth-Size Planets

The long-awaited launch of the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft was successful Friday night, announced the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Named for the 17th-century German astronomer-mathematician Johannes Kepler, the spacecraft will stare at 100,000 stars for over three years, looking for variations in their light that indicate the presence of planets.  Follow-up studies may determine if some of […]
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