Scientists have proposed what seems like an obvious solution to finding life on other planets—look for pollution similar to that found on Earth. Light or air pollution would be a dead giveaway to life on another planet, according to a study to appear in the journal Astrobiology.
Of course, this is assuming that extraterrestrial life is even remotely similar to ours, and even if it is, finding the pollution won’t be easy, according to New Scientist:
Even if all the electricity we generate was used to produce light, it would still be thousands of times fainter than the glint of sunlight reflected from Earth’s surface. To reliably detect even this massive amount of artificial light on a planet orbiting a relatively nearby star—say 15 light years away—would require an array of telescopes with a combined light-collecting area of 1.5 square kilometres….
That’s about 370 football fields’ worth of telescopes.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are another source of pollution that would be a tell-tale sign of alien life, according to the study. CFCs do not form naturally and absorb infrared light, so they could be observed from afar. But by looking for CFCs we’d have to assume aliens are dumb enough to spew the pollution into their atmosphere—in other words, that they’re as dumb as we are.
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Image: flickr / LabyrinthX
Miyuki Hatoyama, the wife of new Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, is quite a character. According to the BBC:
Japan’s new first lady is something of a Renaissance woman: designer, former actress, cookbook author, television personality—and perhaps most controversially a self-professed space traveller who has visited Venus with aliens.
If that were not enough, she also claims to have met Tom Cruise in a former life, when he was Japanese.
Hatoyama was quoted in a book called Most Bizarre Things I’ve Encountered as saying:
While my body was sleeping, I think my spirit flew on a triangular-shaped UFO to Venus…It was an extremely beautiful place and was very green.
Granted, Japan’s new first lady isn’t always the most, er, cautious with her words. Among her other quotations are:
“When the sun is up, I always eat it… I tear it off and eat if like this,” she said on the chat show, joking with the host.
“Yum, yum, yum,” she said. “That gives me great power.”
Perhaps something is lost in translation?
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The folks at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, or SETI, in Mountain View, Calif., want to make sure we earthlings are prepared for a conversation with extraterrestrials. The group, which is dedicated to searching space for signs of life, recently began searching 10 billion channels using radio telescopes to give us a chance to communicate with beings on other planets.
The next step, of course, is to figure out what to say. The institute has given the public the chance to chime in on this issue through the Earth Project, which asks space enthusiasts how we should converse with aliens.
Some of the suggestions so far:
“This is Earth speaking. We would like to know you. Please reply.”
“Down here we are all confused.”
“Don’t kidnap us and poke us. We hate that.”
• Forget Graceland: If you’re in Huntsville, Ala., be sure to visit the graves of spacemonkeys Able and Baker, the first monkeys to survive a space flight. You can find the graves easily—they’re strewn with bananas.
• If you’re reading this, you have a UFO to thank—at least according to a Russian scientist, who claims an alien spacecraft saved earth from an approaching meteorite by smashing into it a century ago.
• To test whether beer or a joint does more damage to driving skills, researchers got students drunk, or high on marijuana. The results? Stoned drivers drive significantly slower than drunk ones, but—surprise!—both groups drove less safely than their placebo’ed peers.
• Think you’re smart? Not compared to this 16-year-old Iraqi. It took him only four months to solve a math problem that had been baffling academics for 300 years.
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On the early morning of January 4th, something hit and mangled a giant 290-foot-tall wind turbine in Lincolnshire, England. One of its three 65-foot blades was completely severed while another was left dangling like a wilted flower petal. Officials have cordoned off the wind farm (which seems only to be fueling the UFO theories) but have not been able to identify what hit the turbine—or, at least, they’re not willing to say.
Some people in the area report seeing bright orange spheres of light “with tentacles” streaking across the sky towards the wind farm around the time of the crash. UFO flares? Actually, they were the celebratory fireworks from the 80th birthday party of local resident, reports the Guardian.
Of course, UFO enthusiasts are having a ball with this one. But aside from a many-tentacled alien Don Quixote, other, slightly more rational suspects include a possible lightning strike, a meteorite, a robot stealth bomber on a test flight, a cow-sized ice chunk, or material failure. We’re also going to throw in revenge of the bats.
The thought of deciphering alien gossip might sound straight out of sci-fi, but at least one scientist sees it as a reality—that is, if a computer program can translate alien chatter into something we can understand. Researchers know how to tell whether an interstellar message picked up from space was coming from a language, image or music, and now John Elliott of Leeds Metropolitan University is taking the interpretation a bit further: He says he has the tools to start deciphering alien languages into words and sentences.
Elliott, the academic leader for Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computing, is hoping to use the power of the computer to decode unknown languages (from Earth or beyond) so he can “aid the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.” Elliot developed a computer program that analyzes 60 languages around the world, pulled from raw text samples available on the web. He hopes that finding a trend in human expression will help us understand language structure better. There’s a distinct pattern in the way people talk, determined by how much information our minds can understand at a time.
What would you tell an extra-terrestrial about life on Earth?
Last week, the social networking site, Bebo, beamed 501 images and text messages into space via the National Space Agency of Ukraine’s RT-70 radar telescope. Where are they going? An Earth-like planet named Gliese 581C that some think may harbor extraterrestrial life. Discovered last year, Gliese 581C orbits the red dwarf star Gliese 581 and has a climate that could support liquid water.
The messages were submitted by Bebo users, who are mostly teens and early twenty-somethings. Aside from the practical (the number pi, the average human height measured in hydrogen atomic radii) and the diplomatic (calls for peace, love, and recycling), they include pictures of Britney Spears, George Sampson, Heath Ledger, and kittens. You can browse through all the messages here.
Gliese 581C is 20.5 light years (120 trillion miles) away, so the digital missives won’t reach their destination until early 2029. That also means we won’t hear back from any alien correspondents for another four decades.
Of course, this isn’t the first time earthlings have reached out to the great beyond.