I happened to receive the calendar the day before Thanksgiving. The skies of the Southern hemisphere are majestic to behold. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are seen with such clarity that to wait for the calendar in the Mail was time well spent.
I suggest anyone who would like to learn more of the Southern Hemisphere, pick up a copy!
When the SETI@Home project commenced 15 years ago, I imagined humanity would find evidence of ET within 25 years. In fact, I believed that it would be a matter of decades before a handful of interesting signals would captivate the general public. The fact is, the SETI paradigm is almost 55 years old, and the Drake equation may be subject to revision. (My supposition of the Drake equation may be more rhetorical…) However, Enrico Fermi’s question of ‘where is everyone,’ is more relevant than it seemed to me.
Those are my thoughts of SETI as I approached chapter 14 of the book which I have been ruminating upon for a few posts. The title of the chapter is If You Want to Talk to ET, You must First Find ET and it is authored by Dr. Jill Tartar and Dr. Chris Impey.
The chapter is written in style which illuminates the reasons for performing the search—and I found it to written clearly and concisely. The gist of the work indicates that if we do find a signal of worth in SETI—it would be the harbinger of a ‘possible future.’
After finishing the chapter my feelings could summed like this:
It is our own future bound-up in one of two paths; if we survive our own technology that signal would be the epiphany of how we survived and why. (That of course is a path worth traveling.)
Because you have chosen to read my blog, I am humbled and thankful. I will continue to write and find much enlightenment from all of you!
I thought I would post the image to illustrate how inspired I am from my fellow bloggers.
Here is a description of the image from its companion site:
Galaxies of the Infrared Sky
This panoramic view of the entire sky reveals the distribution of galaxies beyond our Milky Way galaxy, which astronomers call extended sources, as observed by Two Micron All-Sky Survey. The image is constructed from a database of over 1.6 million galaxies listed in the survey’s Extended Source Catalog; more than half of the galaxies have never before been catalogued. The image is a representation of the relative brightnesses of these million-plus galaxies, all observed at a wavelength of 2.2 microns. The brightest and nearest galaxies are represented in blue, and the faintest, most distant ones are in red. This color scheme gives insights into the three dimensional large-scale structure of the nearby universe with the brightest, closest clusters and superclusters showing up as the blue and bluish-white features. The dark band in this image shows the area of the sky where our Milky Way galaxy blocks our view of distant objects, which, in this projection, lies predominantly along the edges of the image.
“Atlas Image [or Atlas Image mosaic] obtained as part of the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation.”
I am very happy announce that an article which I wrote was added decodedscience.com. The site is in its infancy and I am very honored to be added.
Here is the URL of piece:
Virus: ‘A piece of bad news wrapped in a protein’
-Sir Peter Medawar
Diagram of the HIV virus. US National Institute of Health (redrawn by en:User:Carl Henderson)
It is no secret that viruses are a bane of modern life—prior to the Bird Flu, Ebola, and HIV most individuals did not put much worry in catching a cold nor the influenza. However, the arrival of HIV in the late 1970s opened the eyes of many people—(and HIV’s source seemingly came from ‘monkey meat.’) While all along, the question as to whether viruses were a form of life was hotly debated and still remains partly solved (with the mainstream regarding viruses as non-life). Truth be told, the definition of life is a thorny issue to the majority of biologists.
The lack of understanding of viruses plagues the field of astrobiology as well. Googling the terms—viral life and astrobiology will nearly turn up an empty cache. One other remarkable fact is the number of viruses are said to outnumber bacteria by one order of magnitude. (Estimates put the number of viruses at 1031and the number of bacteria at 1030. That is the number 10 with 31 zeros behind it.) Any place there is humanity, you may well find a virus feeding as a parasite. In fact, there are viruses that feed on other viruses.
The discipline of astrobiology is studying viruses, and it may help discern the puzzle of fossilized life on the side (see note at end of post). However more to point, I will speak of ‘virus fundamentals.’ Viruses trick their host into ‘believing’ that their chemistry is a part of host’s biochemistry. The virus will attach itself to the ‘wall of its host’ and insert its DNA (or RNA) to make more copies of itself. It is correctly pointed out that viruses play a prominent role in life’s present and past evolution. (Viruses have been a part of the Earth’s biology since near the beginning of life.) And, it is pointed out that by finding ET-viruses it will help us to understand how life may have arisen elsewhere. That argument is put forth because viruses are now found in archaea, the bacterial communities that survive under extreme conditions. It has also has been reported that archaeal viruses may survive for extended periods by coating their exteriors with a glassy silica (related to sand).
The likelihood of finding ET-viruses is one which intrigues the astrobiology community. However, scenarios posed show a murky picture at best. If viral entities are found everywhere, it may be nearly impossible to discern ‘infected-life’ from ‘non-infected-life.’ Further clouding the scenario is the mainstream view that viruses are not alive but collections of chemical bags that bear little similarity to conventional life.
REFERENCES for READING and STUDY:
Matti Jalasvuori, Anni-Maria Örmälä and Jaana K.H. Bamford (2009). On the astrobiological relevance of viruses in extraterrestrial ecosystems. International Journal of Astrobiology, 8, pp 95-100. doi:10.1017/S1473550409004479.
Griffin D.W. (2013). The quest for extraterrestrial life: what about the viruses? Astrobiology. 2013 Aug;13(8):774-83. doi: 10.1089/ast.2012.0959.
REFERENCE related to fossils and biosignatures:
Laidler, J., Shugart, J., Cady, S., Bahjat, K., Stedman, K. “Reversible Inactivation and Desiccation Tolerance of Silicified Viruses.” J. Virol. 10.1128/JVL.02825-13. http://jvi.asm.org/content/early/2013/10/03/JVI.02825-13.full.pdf+html?sid=affa42aa-f145-4284-b6db-e12bdd34b1ed
The link above was sent to me from COSMOQuest.org —follow it. It is beautiful!
Correction added to blog–the following link might work better if you had problems with the first link?