Alien Life? Astronomers Predict Contact by 2025

alienNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC– Earthlings could make contact with extraterrestrial beings by the year 2025, two astronomers predict in a new book.

The authors say it’s unlikely space aliens look like Hollywood’s ET—little, green, and hairless—and that while aliens are highly unlikely to pay Earth a visit, they may be sending radio signals across space to let us know they exist.

The book, Cosmic Company, “is an explication of why we think they’re out there, how we’re looking for them, what they must be like, and a little bit of what it might mean” to find life on other planets, said co-author Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) in Mountain View, California.

The institute conducts research in astronomy, the planetary sciences, and evolution. Past research projects have been funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and numerous universities and foundations.

Beyond Our Galaxy

Shostak and co-author Alexandra Barnett, an astronomer and executive director of the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California, base their predictions on a number of factors.

They include the billions of years in which extraterrestrial life could have evolved and the abundance of planets and stars elsewhere in the universe that are likely to mimic environmental conditions found on Earth.

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© National Geographic, 2003

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Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning in Again

psychadelicNY TIMES– As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.

Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

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© NY Times, 2010

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Don’t Talk to Aliens, Warns Stephen Hawking

stephen hawkingTIMES ONLINE– The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist- but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries. Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

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© Times Online, 2010

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Geneva Atom Smasher Sets Collision Record

hadron colliderASSOCIATED PRESS– The world’s largest atom smasher conducted its first experiments at conditions nearing those after the Big Bang, breaking its own record for high-energy collisions with proton beams crashing into each other Tuesday at three times more force than ever before.

In a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider’s ambitious bid to reveal details about theoretical particles and microforces, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, collided the beams and took measurements at a combined energy level of 7 trillion electron volts. The collisions herald a new era for researchers working on the machine in a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel below the Swiss-French border at Geneva.

“That’s it! They’ve had a collision,” said Oliver Buchmueller from Imperial College in London as people closely watched monitors.

In a control room, scientists erupted with applause when the first successful collisions were confirmed. Their colleagues from around the world were tuning in by remote links to witness the new record, which surpasses the 2.36 TeV CERN recorded last year. Dubbed the world’s largest scientific experiment, researchers hope the machine can approach on a tiny scale what happened in the first split seconds after the Big Bang, which they theorize was the creation of the universe some 14 billion years ago.

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© AP, 2010

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