Astrobiology and SETI

Comet Impacts and the Origin of Life

September 17, 2013

It was back in 2010 that Nir Goldman (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) first predicted that the impact of a comet on the early Earth could produce potential life-building compounds like amino acids. Goldman was using computer simulations to make the call, studying molecular dynamics under the conditions of such impacts. He found that the shock […]

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Remembering John Billingham

August 8, 2013

Michael Michaud is no stranger to these pages, with a number of prior contributions and a reputation that precedes him in the field of SETI and interstellar research at large. Among his accomplishments are a lengthy career in the U.S. Foreign Service, where he served as Counselor for Science, Technology and Environment at U.S. embassies […]

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Remembering The Listeners

July 29, 2013

Back in the 1970s I ran across an essay by James Gunn called “Where Do They Get Those Crazy Ideas,” which was all about how science fiction worked and where its writers sought inspiration. I had long admired Gunn, a college professor who was developing a body of critical work on science fiction even as […]

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Catching Up with FOCAL

June 28, 2013

Michael Chorost has written a fine essay on Claudio Maccone’s FOCAL mission concept for The New Yorker blog. Centauri Dreams regulars will know Chorost from several previous posts here, particularly a discussion on SETI that I talked about in On Cosmic Isolation, where he analyzed the hunt for extraterrestrial civilizations in terms of problems of […]

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SETI’s Colossus

May 31, 2013

For the most part, the focus of SETI since Project Ozma has been directed at intercepting signals deliberately sent our way. It doesn’t have to be so, of course, because extraneous signals from a civilization going about its business would also be profoundly interesting, and even a civilization not much more advanced than ours might […]

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Robotic Replicators

April 26, 2013

Centauri Dreams regular Keith Cooper gives us a look at self-replication and the consequences of autonomous probes for intelligent cultures spreading into the universe. Is the Fermi paradox explained by the lack of such civilizations in the galaxy, or is there a far more subtle reason? Keith has been thinking about these matters for some […]

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Finding ET in the Data

April 17, 2013

As we saw yesterday, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) has been the source of data for a number of searches for unusual infrared signatures. The idea is to look for the artifacts of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, under the assumption that a sufficiently advanced culture will be capable of engineering projects that could be detected from […]

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Archaeology on an Interstellar Scale

April 16, 2013

Dyson spheres — technology wrapped around an entire star to maximize energy use — would be unimaginably big. But the idea of maximizing the light from a central star certainly makes sense. Imagine a sphere with a radius at the distance of Earth’s orbit. Now you’ve got a surface area more than 100 million times […]

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SETI: The Artificial Transit Scenario

March 7, 2013

Among the many memorable things Freeman Dyson has said in a lifetime of research, one that stands out for me is relatively recent. “Look for what is detectable, not for what is probable.” This was Dyson speaking at a TED conference in Monterey, CA back in 2003, making the point that the universe continually surprises […]

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Interstellar Ice Grains and Life’s Precursors

March 4, 2013

One of the first science fiction novels I ever read was The Black Cloud, by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. I remember that one of my classmates had smuggled it into our grade school and soon we were passing it around covertly instead of reading whatever it was we had been assigned. In Hoyle’s novel, scientists discover […]

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