January 2007

SETI and Its Critics

January 24, 2007

From the Paramus Post, a story by Bruce Lieberman looks at contrasting views of SETI: On both sides of the SETI debate, scientists acknowledge that what’s certain is the limit of what they know. “I personally think that because the origin of life is an extremely difficult process … even simple life is very rare […]

Read the full article →

A World Lit by Three Suns

January 23, 2007

Habitable planets in multiple star systems are one of science fiction’s great tropes. Find a second star somewhere in the daylight sky and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. It makes slow going today, but as a kid I was struck with William F. Temple’s The Three Suns of Amara (1962), a story whose […]

Read the full article →

Binary Stars and Terrestrial Worlds

January 22, 2007

The findings about possible terrestrial worlds around the Alpha Centauri stars have become more encouraging than ever. Key work in this regard has been performed by Elisa Quintana and collaborators, who have shown in their simulations that, depending on initial disk inclinations, 3-5 such planets might form around Centauri A and 2-5 around Centauri B. […]

Read the full article →

A Quiet Day at the Galactic Core

January 20, 2007

The mammoth black hole Sagittarius A* isn’t the only interesting thing near the center of our galaxy. The European Space Agency’s Integral observatory, working with gamma rays, tracks about eighty high-energy sources in the area. About ten of those closest to the galaxy’s center had faded when Integral performed a series of observations last April. […]

Read the full article →

Quick Turnaround to Barnard’s Star

January 20, 2007

A relativistic trip to Barnard’s Star? Those who read French will want to check out the log of such a journey as Philippe Guglielmetti sees it. Traveling at a constant 1g for acceleration and braking, the mission reaches 0.99999 c, travel time twelve years but only three as experienced by the crew. The fictionalized journey […]

Read the full article →

Seeing an Empty Cosmos

January 20, 2007

Michael Anissimov looks out at a universe devoid of intelligence other than our own. Here’s a clip, referring to Frank Tipler’s 1980 paper “Extraterrestrial intelligent beings do not exist”: It was quite a few years ago when I looked up to the stars, with Dr. Tipler’s book in my hand, that I realized he was […]

Read the full article →

New Horizons Primes for Jupiter

January 19, 2007

The New Horizons mission may have one primary target, the Pluto/Charon binary at the edge of the Kuiper Belt, but the science along the way should be interesting indeed. Up next in late February is the Jupiter flyby, whose powerful gravity assist will boost New Horizons’ velocity past 23 km/s and provide the needed stress […]

Read the full article →

Of Fermi and Slow Probes

January 18, 2007

Some day alien civilizations may pick up television or radio signals from Earth. But does this mean they’re likely to visit us? Danish researcher Rasmus Bjørk (Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen) doubts it. “Even then, unless they can develop an exotic form of transport that gets them across the galaxy in two weeks it’s still going […]

Read the full article →

Deflating Scientific Prose

January 18, 2007

What’s wrong with scientific papers? Ask physicist and science fiction author Gregory Benford, who tackles the question in a wonderful pastiche for COSMOS. “The sad truth is that hardly anybody ever reads a paper all the way through,” Benford writes. “A study by a British physics journal showed that the average number who get through […]

Read the full article →

‘Cosmic Search’ Available Online

January 17, 2007

It’s a pleasure to see that Cosmic Search is now accessible on the Internet. Appearing first in 1979, this magazine devoted solely to SETI was well ahead of its time, trying to generate interest in a popular audience that had not yet become familiar with the concepts driving the search for life in the universe. […]

Read the full article →