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Posts Tagged "extraterrestrial life"

Cross-Check

Are Scientists on “Cusp of Knowing” How Weird We Are?

In his new book Caleb Scharf writes: "So are we unusual or not?... Neither side is yet a winner. But we are much, much closer to an answer than we have ever been in the history of the human species; we are on the cusp of knowing."

I’m writing this post for two reasons. One is to recommend a new book by Columbia astrobiologist Caleb Scharf (who also writes a terrific Scientific American blog, “Life, Unbounded“), and the other is to defend an old book of mine. Scharf’s book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Should We Expect Other Earth-like Planets At All?

exoplanets-many-habitable-worlds

This year has been a spectacular one for exoplanets. New discoveries and new insights have truly pushed the gateway to other worlds even further open.     In the past 12 months we’ve gained increasingly good statistics on the incredible abundance of planets around other stars and their multiplicity. We also finally seem to have [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Tweets In Space!

Tweets In Space (N. Stern and S. Kildall)

When the interplanetary missions Pioneer 10 and 11 launched in the late 1970s they each carried a metal plaque engraved with a set of pictorial messages from humanity. Eventually these extraordinary probes will traverse interstellar space, carrying these hopeful symbols towards anyone, or anything, that might one day find them. A few years later also [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Alien worlds through iPad eyes

Superimposed image of the Milky Way and Australian Aboriginal engraving of 'The Emu In The Sky' (Barnaby Norris)

Scientific illustration has a long and noble history, from ancient depictions of celestial forms to Leonardo Da Vinci’s extraordinary drawings of anatomy and invention, to the latest computer-generated animation splashed across CNN or – perhaps with more reflective thought – the cinematic screens of the world’s great science museums. In English the word ‘illustrate’ has [...]

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Observations

Live Chat at Noon Today on Dreams of Other Worlds and NASA’s Next Mars Mission

Robotic exploration of space is fascinating, complex and quite important to our understanding of the universe. To learn more about how scientists and engineers overcome challenges of robotic space exploration for successful data collection, join us for a live chat today (Tuesday, October 29) at noon EDT with Chris Impey, astronomer and author of Dreams of [...]

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Observations

The New Way to Look for Mars Life: Follow the Salt

Newton Crater on Mars

LOS ANGELES—There is probably water on Mars, but you wouldn’t want to drink it. It’s salty, viscous and quite possibly toxic. But astrobiologists are nonetheless excited about the possibility. Just in the past few years, orbiter cameras and Mars landers have gathered evidence that watery liquid does exist on the Red Planet, at least during [...]

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Observations

Davos: X Marks the Unknown

Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum published its annual report on global risks, “Global Risks 2013: Eighth Edition.” At the 2013 WEF meeting at Davos, a session focused on emerging threats, called “X Factors: Preparing for the Unknown.” My colleague Philip Campbell, the editor in chief of Nature, and his colleague editors, identified these [...]

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Observations

Lonely Planet: Social Media Gets on Board in the Quixotic Search for Extraterrestrial Life

The count of exoplanets, those outside the Solar System, now has reached the multi-hundreds, with mucho mas inevitably to be counted. Working through financial troubles, SETI is again searching for intelligent life in the great Out There. So paraphrasing the relevant question posed by Enrico Fermi: If they’re out there, why aren’t they here? The [...]

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Observations

Study shows how sunlight on Titan yields life-precursor compounds

Saturnian moon Titan and its hazy atmosphere from Cassini

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, does not harbor alien life as far as anyone knows, but the prospects for extraterrestrial biology there are about as good there as anywhere else in the solar system. Numerous promising compounds based on hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon—some of the key constituents of terrestrial biological molecules such as amino acids—have been [...]

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