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New Exoplanet Is Best Yet Candidate For Supporting Life 288

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-neighborhood dept.
First time accepted submitter uigrad_2000 writes "With all the new exoplanets discovered recently with Kepler, it seemed a sure thing that the first exoplanet in the habitable zone of a star would be found soon. The irony is that Kepler was not involved. GJ 667Cc is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, and lies in the habitable region of its host star, reports Scientific American. It was discovered by comparing public data from the ESO to recent observations from Hawaii and Chile. As opposed to the stars Kepler is watching, this is only 22 light-years away, making it even more interesting."
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New Exoplanet Is Best Yet Candidate For Supporting Life

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  • Re:22 light years (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zakabog (603757) <john.jmaug@com> on Friday February 03, 2012 @02:59AM (#38912405)

    Well 44 years for those of us observing from Earth. Much less time for those of us making the journey (assuming they're traveling at the speed of light or close to it.) Still that is a huge if. Though radio contact with an intelligent and sufficiently technicially advanced species that close would be very possible.

  • Re:22 light years (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Surt (22457) on Friday February 03, 2012 @03:14AM (#38912461) Homepage Journal

    I can't see why a modest improvement in our current technology, say the technology we'll have in 200 years would not allow this trip to be quite feasible at 0.10C, for a roundtrip of around half a millennia. And that's only about twice as long as our current government has lasted, and our culture has been around longer. Our descendants could look forward to the trip report. And assuming biology continues to advance, it might just be our great grandchildren welcoming those who return.

  • by segwonk (1064462) <jwinn@earthlink.net> on Friday February 03, 2012 @04:20AM (#38912685)

    Serious question though: What size antenna would some(thing) need to hear our radio signals at a distance of 22ly?

    I seem to recall from reading somewhere (Physics of Star Trek?) about this. The gist is that this is a non-trivial problem, requiring an antenna unfathomably wide to catch such a weak signal.

    Maybe there's an occasional super neat hack, like galaxy/gravitational lensing. But there's no aiming that.

    Anyway, maybe we'll catch someone knowledgable about this... Chime in!
  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday February 03, 2012 @05:19AM (#38912865) Homepage

    According to this [vectorsite.net]:

    Project Phoenix, under the direction of Dr. Jill Tarter, who had worked on MOP when she was at NASA, was a continuation of the Targeted Search program, studying 710 Sunlike stars within 150 light-years of the Earth. Phoenix used the 64-meter Parkes radio telescope in Australia, the 43-meter telescope at Green Banks, and the Arecibo dish, searching 70 million channels across a bandwidth of 1,800 MHz. The search was said to be capable of picking up any transmitter about as powerful as an airport radar within 200 light-years. Phoenix was completed in March 2004, with negative results.

    It gets better if you assume we have a dedicated facility on both ends, two Arecibo radio telescopes (305m each) should be able to communicate halfway to the center of the galaxy. But if you're taking about a low-power radio broadcast, then that would take a huge, huge antenna. Then again, they've done some crazy things with arrays of antennas, so who knows. Certainly we're not so silent that we can't get noticed.

  • Re:22 light years (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @07:01AM (#38913241)

    Note that humans don't survive arbitrarily high accelerations. So you'll need some time to get close to the speed of light, and the same time to decelerate on the other side. But then, when you arrive you'll be fried by the extremely blue-shifted radiation (with sufficiently high speed, even normal visible light will turn into hard gamma rays; now imagine what happens to existing gamma radiation and high energy cosmic radiation particles).

    Indeed, one might ask for the maximal speed before you have to fear that any particle hitting you from the front turns your ship into a black hole. :-)

    Oh, and even if you manage to shield away all that radiation, you'll not have much time to avoid those ultra-relativistic stone chippings on your way ... just think what a small gun bullet can do, and imagine a gun bullet with a million times the energy!

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday February 03, 2012 @07:51AM (#38913425) Homepage

    And setting up an antenna is the easy part. How are you going to decode the transmissions by an alien civilization?

    2x beep
    3x beep
    5x beep
    7x beep
    11x beep
    13x beep
    17x beep
    19x beep
    *pause*
    5x beep
    *pause*
    7x beep
    *pause*
    35x beep/no beep
    *pause* ...and start over.

    This should be a fairly straight forward way of encoding a pictogram, though it's unclear if they'll interpret 5 and 7 as the horizontal and vertical or opposite. Replace 5, 7 and 5*7 with arbitrary large primes to make detailed pictures. From there you can start sending maps of the galaxy, periodic table with illustration of the elements, everything we'd have in common. Show math with illustrations like you'd do to a preschooler, here's 2+3 = 5 with boxes of 2, 3 and 5 items. Once they understand our number system, show them distances they too probably know like size of galaxy, size of hydrogen atom etc.

    Text and language, yes you'd get to that eventually. Send them them the alphabet then start over again, naming everything like the milky way, the sun, earth, all the elements and so on. For that matter, just teach them like you would a young child, the is s table and chair and book and flower and bird and whatnot. Illustration and text. Somehow I don't see this as a problem, put a US and Japanese kid in the same room and they'll find a way to communicate even though they got no words in common. Hell, we teach sign language to monkeys. How hard can it be to get a conversation going?

  • Re:22 light years (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Friday February 03, 2012 @08:07AM (#38913471) Homepage

    And assuming biology continues to advance, it might just be our great grandchildren welcoming those who return.

    Well, if biology continues to advance then what's to say it wouldn't be ourselves welcoming those who return?

    I understand that some people don't want to live that long, but my "retirement" plan involves savings for having my organs re-grown...

    For over 20 years (since age 12), I've been developing a machine intelligence "agent" program that has learned my interests from my habits and alerts me to things I might like; Also it performs many other tasks for me -- like email filtering (I no longer see SPAM). My assistant is interested in Slashdot, cybernetics research, Civil Rights, and many other things because I am interested in them. It observes me throughout the day and night (thanks to IR), and can accurately deduce my mood, and current likely relevant interests from my behaviors: Eg: Just waking up, or my posture, or the way I hold my beverage (one drinks beer much differently than coffee) -- Actually, this is incorrect: having no deduction skills at all, its interests I'm alerted to are affected by its "mood" which is simply a direct result of my own physical state and activities -- uncannily similar to how we derive our own moods...

    How far can we take this? We've discovered how to externally recognize decisions in our minds before we're aware of them, we're decoding human word recognition, and we'll be decoding remembered internal speech soon too. At such a point my agent will know my thoughts as instantly as I do -- My machine intelligence already knows my voice and other sounds, recognizes the words I say, and has been taught to read (its got better OCR when it comes to handwriting than I do sometimes). I am able to add new capabilities easily without retraining the whole network because it's a network of neural-networks, taking a page from the human brain & body, I "wire" specialized components together to create a whole.

    The sad thing is that there's a better chance of myself or something very much like me living beyond the time spans you mention than our governments actually launching such a mission. It seems to me that the truly essential and ambitious goals in many areas of exploration will not involve state sponsorship.

    Think of it this way, if the Dinosaurs had a sufficiently advanced space program they wouldn't be extinct right now...
    ( They achieved flight and rested on their laurels tempting fate with all the time in the world. )

    Eventually my machine intelligence will be fully autonomous. Having its own physical state and activities it will be capable of creating its own "mood", able to affect and explore its own interests, and will be much more sturdy than our frail frames are -- Esp. when it comes to the harshness of space. The only problem is that if we launched such intelligences to distant interesting worlds, they may decide never to return. At least then our Human drive to create and explore won't be completely extincted by the asteroid that IS headed for us Right Now.

    P.S. It's a misnomer to call machine intelligence "AI"; There's nothing "artificial" about its very real intelligence. Though not as smart as you are, its intelligence is as real as that of a fruit fly, rat, bird, cat, or ape. True, MI is artificial in that it was created by man, but you don't call clothes "artificial garments" if they include synthetic fibers... It's truly just an intelligent machine.

  • by houghi (78078) on Friday February 03, 2012 @08:56AM (#38913697)

    To quote Carl Sagan

    I am fully aware of the whole quote:
    I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.
    The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

    Also: it is a quote and as such a reflection how _I_ feel, not what Sagan thought of the matter. Just wanted to clearify that before people start ranting

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