Friday, May 29, 2009

A Serious Search for Other Worlds, Life, and - Maybe - Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Searching the stars for "new life and new civilizations" is the stuff of science fiction. And, to an increasing extent, the job of professional scientists.

We're living at a point in history where humanity is rapidly discovering new worlds: some so strange that scientists are having to change old assumptions, and develop new models to explain what their instruments detect.

I would be very surprised if my children's children see something like Star Trek's warp drive. On the other hand, Alcubierre's intriguing equations suggest that we'll be able to travel faster than the speed of light: as soon as we figure out how to build machines that can warp space-time on a fairly large scale.

While physicists are exploring the horizon of their field, speculating on how a practical interstellar spaceship could be designed, and biologists are learning more about how life works, astronomers and others are putting together an increasingly extensive list of places to check out:

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