Astrobiology and SETI

100YSS: SETI, Sprites and Cutting Costs

September 23, 2014

Gatherings like the 100 Year Starship Symposium have tough organizational choices to make, and the solutions aren’t always obvious. A good part of any aerospace conference is involved in presenting papers, but do you set up a multi-track system or take a single-track approach? In Houston, the 100 Year Starship organization chose multiple tracks: We […]

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SETI: The Casino Perspective

August 19, 2014

I like George Johnson’s approach toward SETI. In The Intelligent-Life Lottery, he talks about playing the odds in various ways, and that of course gets us into the subject of gambling. What are the odds you’ll hit the right number combination when you buy a lottery ticket? Whenever I think about the topic, I always […]

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SETI: The Pollution Factor

July 24, 2014

We tend to assume that our mistakes as a species flag us as immature, a young civilization blundering about with tools it is misusing on a course that may lead to extinction. But assume for a moment that an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization goes through phases more or less like our own. If we’re sifting through […]

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A New Look at Sea Floor Astrobiology

April 16, 2014

How do you produce life on an early Earth bathed in ultraviolet radiation? The presumption when I was growing up was that the combination of chemicals in ancient ponds, fed energy by lightning or ultraviolet light itself, would produce everything needed to start the process. Thus Stanley Miller and Harold Urey’s experiments, beginning in 1953 […]

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SETI at the Particle Level

February 12, 2014

A big reason why the Fermi paradox has punch is the matter of time. Max Tegmark gets into this in his excellent new book Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality (Knopf, 2014), where he runs through what many thinkers on the subject have noted: Our Sun is young enough that […]

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Habitability Around Ancient Stars

February 4, 2014

I see a lot to like about Abraham Loeb’s new paper “The Habitable Epoch of the Early Universe,” available as a preprint and now going through the submission process at Astrobiology. Not that it isn’t controversial, and for reasons that are patently obvious as soon as one digs into it. But the sheer chutzpah of […]

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Is Energy a Key to Interstellar Communication?

November 27, 2013

I first ran across David Messerschmitt’s work in his paper “Interstellar Communication: The Case for Spread Spectrum,” and was delighted to meet him in person at Starship Congress in Dallas last summer. Dr. Messerschmitt has been working on communications methods designed for interstellar distances for some time now, with results that are changing the paradigm […]

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Moving Stars: The Shkadov Thruster

November 26, 2013

Although I didn’t write about the so-called ‘Shkadov thruster’ yesterday, it has been on my mind as one mega-engineering project that an advanced civilization might attempt. The most recent post was all about moving entire stars to travel the galaxy, with reference to Gregory Benford and Larry Niven’s Bowl of Heaven (Tor, 2012), where humans […]

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SETI, METI… and Assessing Risk like Adults

November 12, 2013

David Brin is a familiar name to science fiction readers worldwide, the award-winning author of the highly regarded ‘uplift’ novels that include Startide Rising (1983), The Uplift War (1987) and Brightness Reef (1995). Among his numerous other titles are The Postman (1985), Kiln People (2002) and Existence (2012). But Brin is also known as a […]

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James Benford: Comments on METI

November 11, 2013

Pardon this extended introduction to Jim Benford’s response to Nick Nielsen’s Friday essay, but it comes at a serendipitous time. Jim’s recent online work has reminded me that we in the interstellar community need to work to see that as many resources as possible are made available online. In the absence of specialized bibliographies, useful […]

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