April 2010

Sail Technologies Go Interplanetary

April 30, 2010

With its May 18 launch date fast approaching, Japan’s IKAROS hybrid sail mission is at last getting a bit of press attention, long overdue in my opinion. The Daily Mail, at least, has just run a story on IKAROS, which will combine two mission concepts within a single spacecraft. Its solar sail works conventionally, using […]

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Astrobiology in Houston: From Fossils to SETI

April 29, 2010

NASA’s teleconference from the Astrobiology Science Conference 2010 in Houston offered some interesting news about the discovery of microscopic fossils in gypsum from a period about six million years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea had all but dried up. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) precipitates out of sea water, and the find has implications for finding life […]

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Notes & Queries 4/28/10

April 28, 2010

Solar Sail Symposium in July The 2nd International Symposium on Solar Sailing (ISSS 2010) draws closer, the event occurring July 20-22 at New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York. The focus will be on recent advances in solar sailing technologies and near-term solar sailing missions, with coverage of hardware, […]

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GJ 436b: Mystery and Its Uses

April 27, 2010

Yesterday’s musings on extraterrestrial contact were inspired both by Stephen Hawking and the surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978). Whereas Hawking opined that an encounter with an alien culture could be dangerous, my own hunch was that it would be deeply mysterious and perhaps not even understood as contact, given the huge differences in technology […]

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The Enigma of Contact

April 26, 2010

What Stephen Hawking thinks about aliens made news this weekend, and Centauri Dreams readers will know from our past discussions more or less what Hawking has to say. Assuming we come into contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, it is widely assumed that one of two things will happen. Either an alien visit will be devastating, […]

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SETI and Open Data

April 23, 2010

Are there better ways of studying the raw data from SETI? We may know soon, because Jill Tarter has announced that in a few months, the SETI Institute will begin to make this material available via the SETIQuest site. Those conversant with digital signal processing are highly welcome, but so are participants from the general […]

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Kepler: Hold the Data?

April 22, 2010

Not long ago I sent out a ‘tweet’ on the Centauri Dreams Twitter feed talking about the number of planet detection candidates the Kepler mission was working with. Almost immediately I discovered that the story had become unavailable at the Nature News site, making me wonder whether the figures were right, but the story is […]

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Life Throughout the Solar System?

April 21, 2010

Just as SETI is redefining its parameters, astrobiology has been going through a shift that widens our notion of habitable zones. Not so long ago, the concept seemed simple. Take a Sun-like star and figure out at what distance a planet could maintain liquid water on its surface. Assume, in other words, that the life […]

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An Archaeological Approach to SETI

April 20, 2010

Changing approaches to SETI are getting public attention these days, as witness a new article in The Economist that makes reference to the probable cause of the interest, the publication of Paul Davies’ The Eerie Silence (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). Sub-titled ‘Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence,’ Davies’ book is making accessible to the general […]

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Confirming General Relativity at Large Scales

April 19, 2010

The discovery that the universe’s expansion is accelerating has led some to wonder whether General Relativity breaks down at large scales. But new work by Fabian Schmidt and colleagues at Caltech seems to play down a rival theory known, economically enough, as f(R). If, under General Relativity, we see dark energy in terms of a […]

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