Articles Comments

Space Archaeology » Archive

Review: ‘Footprints of alien technology’, by Paul Davies

Since the search for extraterrestrial intelligence began, astronomers have been trying to answer the question “Are we alone in the universe?” in two ways: by listening for deliberate messages, and by looking for physical evidence – the products and byproducts – arising as a consequence of extraterrestrial civilization. The latter search, called xenoarchaeology on this site, has explored a number of strategies such as hunting for orbiting probes, artificial structures on planetary surfaces, and astroengineering projects such as Dyson spheres. Paul Davies of the Beyond Center at Arizona State University has just published a paper in Acta Astronautica promoting the search for more subtle traces of nonhuman civilization, and asking that the entire scientific community be on the lookout. His paper covers a number of astrobiological issues such as the need to refine the … Read entire article »

Filed under: Reviews

Day of the Amoeba: Mass Hysteria in Charlotte, NC, 1965

4 August, 1965. Panic sweeps the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, when local radio station WIST broadcasts a news flash: ”An amoeba is loose somewhere on the outskirts of the city!” Terrified children tried to get home to their parents, who were jamming phone lines to the police in desperate attempts to find their children. The panic was described as “one of the worst disturbances in the city’s history”. A city of 80,000 in an uproar over an amoeba – a creature smaller than a millimeter across. A year later the Federal Communications Commission officially censured the radio station for alarming the scientifically illiterate population of Charlotte. Police phone lines were tied up for three hours, and “three times” the number of telephonists were put on duty to handle the calls. I came across this story … Read entire article »

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Review: ‘Response to Ben McGee’ by Linda Billings

Linda Billings states bluntly that Ben McGee’s “call for proactive xenoarchaeological guidelines” is not “a productive contribution to the scientific search for evidence of extraterrestrial life or efforts to communicate clearly about it.” Much of her criticism is of terminological imprecision. I agree with her about the way the term “astrobiology” is used by McGee: at different times referring broadly to extraterrestrial life, and narrowly to intelligent extraterrestrial life. On the other hand, her apparent dismissal of the term “xenoarchaeology” for not appearing in dictionaries fails for several reasons: McGee had himself defined the term in his initial paper; such a prescriptive approach would stymie neologisms of all kinds; the use of the prefix xeno- to refer to extraterrestrial specialisations is uncontroversial – Billings would surely be aware of the term xenobiology, a less common … Read entire article »

Filed under: Reviews