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Friday, December 12, 2014

5 Questions on ET Life With Astrobiologist Caleb Scharf

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5 Questions on ET Life With Astrobiologist Caleb Scharf


Is there intelligent life in the universe? 5 questions with astrobiologist Caleb Scharf


Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th century Polish astronomer and mathematician, wasn't the first to suggest that the Earth wasn't the center of the universe—the idea originated with the ancient Greeks—but he was the first to prove it with a mathematical theorem. By doing so he upended the notion that Earth is unique, giving rise to the idea that there might be life on other planets.

Astrobiologist Caleb Scharf tackles this complex topic in his newest book, The Copernicus Complex. "I've wondered if we're alone in the universe since I was a child, and everyone I've ever known has thought about it at some point," said the British-born astronomer and physicist, who is director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center.

His research focuses on the study of exoplanets and exomoons, planets and moons outside our own solar system. The center he founded in 2005 includes Columbia faculty from the departments of astronomy, microbiology, climate science, geophysics and astrophysics, and has partnerships with NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the American Museum of Natural History. Its aim is to investigate phenomena related to the origin of life on Earth and on other planets.

The Sunday Times of London just named Scharf's book as its Science Book of the Year. His previous book, Gravity's Engines, about black holes, was listed by New Scientist magazine as one of the 10 books to read in 2012. He is also the author of a popular blog on Scientific American's website called Life, Unbounded.


What do you mean by the "Copernicus Complex?"

It's a phrase that's trying to capture our struggle with one of the biggest questions that we can ask as a species: Are we alone in the universe? Copernican thinking led to the idea that life on Earth, and the Earth itself, aren't special. It's an idea known as cosmic mediocrity, and if that's true, then there has to be lots of other life out there. That was mainstream thinking for a long time.

What have scientists learned that has changed this view?

In the last 20 years we've discovered that planets are pretty much everywhere, which opens up a whole new vista of possibilities. But we've also learned that certain specific conditions must be necessary for life to exist. The question is, what are those conditions, and what are the implications for life's cosmic abundance? In the book I try to reconcile the evidence that suggests planetary life might be common versus the evidence supporting the idea that life on Earth is special and unique. Life equally complex could exist on different planets, but it may have turned out very differently.

Where do you stand on the idea of life on other planets?

There are people out there who really believe in UFOs and humanoid species wandering around in Nevada—if only! I'd put my money on most aliens being microbes, but I think there's complex life too. When we talk about the possibility of technologically intelligent life out there, we're imposing our prejudices on the unknown. Our type of intelligence has only happened once in four billion years on Earth, as far as we know. What if life can be extraordinarily diverse? We could miss a lot simply because it doesn't look familiar. Do I believe there is life on other planets? I'd say yes—we're probably already staring at the right places, but to know for sure we need better data.

How have your research interests changed since you started your career?

I did research on the Big Bang and cosmology for many years. But the discovery of other planetary systems and our expanding knowledge of terrestrial biology helped convince me to switch my research focus. Looking for life in the universe is not easy. It will require a great deal of luck in the next few years. We're looking for life markers in the chemical imbalances of small planets around other stars—that's very difficult. It worries me, and I pace up and down a lot and bite my nails! But it is also exciting, and it pushes our scientific ingenuity to the limits.

Do you think there is something special about Earth and its inhabitants?


At the very end of my book I propose that there is something special about us. We observe, we take notes, but we also have the option to change the equation. We can physically reach beyond our origins. In principle our spacecraft can explore interstellar space, and maybe we can, too. As far as we know, no other species here or elsewhere has had that option—certainly no one's shown up yet. We can actually extend the reach of our species, change the balance of life in the cosmos.

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:


Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:




Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.

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