October 2008

A Beacon-Oriented Strategy for SETI

October 31, 2008

I’ve spent so much recent time on two SETI/METI papers by James, Gregory and Dominic Benford because they contain powerful arguments for re-thinking our current SETI strategy. By analyzing how we might construct cost-optimized interstellar beacons, the authors ask what those beacons might look like if other civilizations were turning them toward us. The results […]

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METI: Learning from Efficient Beacons

October 30, 2008

If we want to consider how to pick up transmissions from a distant civilization, it pays to consider the most effective strategies for building interstellar beacons here on Earth. This is the method James, Gregory and Dominic Benford have used in twin papers on SETI/METI issues, papers that should be read in conjunction since the […]

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SETI: Figuring Out the Beacon Builders

October 29, 2008

Several interesting papers on SETI have appeared in recent days, among them Gregory, James and Dominic Benford’s attempt to place SETI in the context of economics. Equally useful is Duncan Forgan’s new look at the Drake Equation, presenting a way to estimate the distribution of the crucial parameters. I’ll bypass the Forgan paper temporarily because […]

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Asteroid Belts, Possible Planets Around Epsilon Eridani

October 28, 2008

Two asteroid belts around Epsilon Eridani? So we learned yesterday, a fascinating find and one I want to discuss today, but only after celebrating Epsilon Eridani itself. Can any star have a more interesting pedigree? This is one of the Project Ozma stars, the other being Tau Ceti, that Frank Drake targeted in the first […]

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A Filament of Dark Matter?

October 27, 2008

Ponder the image below, which scientists at Tel Aviv University are interpreting in terms of the structure of the universe itself. The work draws on the well established notion that large galaxies are found on bubble-like structures — the soap bubble analogy is inevitable — with smaller dwarf galaxies scattered along the bubble surface. The […]

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COROT’s First Look Inside Distant Stars

October 24, 2008

Asteroseismology is the science of looking inside a star by studying the oscillations made by sound waves as they move throughout its interior. A recent news release from the COROT team calls these ‘Sun-quakes’ when they occur on our own star, and points out that the effect can be compared to seismic waves on Earth, […]

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Hunting for Exoplanet Moons

October 23, 2008

We’re all interested in transiting planets smaller than the Neptune-sized Gliese 436b, and sure to find many of them as our methods improve. One day soon, via missions like COROT or the upcoming Kepler, we’ll be studying planets close to Earth mass and speculating on conditions there. But here’s a scenario for you: Suppose the […]

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A Volcanic Jump-Start for Life?

October 22, 2008

A new look at Stanley Miller’s experiments at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s offers up an intriguing speculation: Volcanic eruptions on the early Earth may have been crucial for the development of life. Miller used hydrogen, methane and ammonia to re-create what was then believed to be the the primordial atmosphere on […]

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Remembering Starwisp

October 21, 2008

Mention beamed propulsion and people invariably think you’re talking about lasers. The idea seems obvious once you’ve gotten used to solar sail principles — if photons from the Sun can impart momentum to push a sail, then why not use a laser beam to push a sail much farther, into the outer Solar System and […]

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An Interstellar Talk (and More) Online

October 20, 2008

Few places on Earth please me more than the Scottish highlands, to the point that I used to daydream about moving to Inverness (this was before that city’s population explosion, back when it weighed in at a sedate 50,000 inhabitants). But I’ll take anywhere in Scotland, and when I realized I wouldn’t be able to […]

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