Signal from distant star an invitation from LinkedIn

❝ Astronomers have confirmed the existence of semi-intelligent alien life with the discovery of an interstellar LinkedIn message.

The invite came from a star in the Hercules constellation and included a request to swap notes on ‘new and exciting ways’ of using Powerpoint.

❝ Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: “This proves that we are not alone in the universe but we will probably spend a lot of time pretending we are.

“I’d always dreamt that first contact would be a sublime moment of consciousness meeting consciousness across the inky void of space but instead I’m going to have to pretend I haven’t checked my telescope for messages.”

❝ The race is now on to develop a spam filter for messages from distant planets to avoid other alien civilisations thinking humans are an easy touch and bombarding Earth with special offers for Wowcher and 38 Degrees petitions to sign.

Everyone tries to recreate The Onion. Not a bad job on this one – albeit aimed mostly at geeks.

And it did make me smile.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Volunteer invasive plant species hitchhiking into Antarctica

Annual bluegrass (above), the same weed that plagues gardens and golf courses around the world, is one of hundreds of alien species now invading Antarctica.

The icy continent’s only two native grasses have experienced a growth spurt as temperatures rise and ice melts, and biologists worry that the same conditions will facilitate an alien invasion that will threaten native ecosystems.

In a new effort to stem the onslaught, a team of biologists assessed the likelihood that these foreign species would take up residence on the icy continent, both now and by the year 2100, when the climate will likely be considerably warmer.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they mapped “hot spots” where invasive plants are most likely to take root (warm colors in the map below):

Despite “Don’t Pack a Pest” campaigns and plenty of good intentions, tourists and scientists carry thousands of seeds and other detachable plant parts to the southern continent each year in Velcro hems, knit caps and dirty bootlaces.

For the new continent-wide assessment, Steven L. Chown of Stellenbosch University in Matieland, South Africa, and his colleagues sampled, identified, and mapped the sources and destinations of more than 2,600 plant parts that hitched a ride to Antarctica during 2007 and 2008. They found that each visitor transported fewer than 10 seeds on average, but the 30,000-plus Antarctic visitors per year were sufficient for invasive species to establish themselves on the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

Annual bluegrass is one of the true pioneers among them. This plant has been taking root near research stations for at least 25 years, but last year Polish biologists reported its intrepid spread into non-disturbed areas, some 1.5 kilometers from the nearest research station on the moraines of a retreating glacier on King George Island.

Human beings are as dangerous to wilderness eco-systems as rats.

If we’re looking for alien life, we should look where they may be hanging out – especially if they ain’t meat machines like us!

Just a different kind of shiny

Seti, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has until now sought radio signals from worlds like Earth. But Seti astronomer Seth Shostak argues that the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence (AI) would be short. Writing in Acta Astronautica, he says that the odds favour detecting such alien AI rather than “biological” life.

Seti searchers have mostly still worked under the assumption – as a starting point for a search of the entire cosmos – that ETs would be “alive” in the sense that we know. That has led to a hunt for life that is bound to follow at least some rules of biochemistry, live for a finite period of time, procreate, and above all be subject to the processes of evolution.

But Dr Shostak makes the point that while evolution can take a large amount of time to develop beings capable of communicating beyond their own planet, technology would already be advancing fast enough to eclipse the species that wrought it.

“If you look at the timescales for the development of technology, at some point you invent radio and then you go on the air and then we have a chance of finding you,” he told BBC News. “But within a few hundred years of inventing radio – at least if we’re any example – you invent thinking machines; we’re probably going to do that in this century.

So you’ve invented your successors and only for a few hundred years are you… a ‘biological’ intelligence…”

Dr Shostak says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy – the only things he says would be of interest to the machines – would be in plentiful supply. That means the Seti hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centres of galaxies.

“I think we could spend at least a few percent of our time… looking in the directions that are maybe not the most attractive in terms of biological intelligence but maybe where sentient machines are hanging out.”

Makes sense to me. But, then, I made the transition to understanding our species as meat machines decades ago. Another transition to more durable construction is a natural.

Doritos offers world’s first extra-terrestrial advertisement

Doritos makes history, taking the UK’s first step in communicating with aliens as they broadcast the first ever advert directed towards potential extra terrestrial life. The University of Leicester has played a key part in the success of the project.

The transmission is being undertaken as part of the Doritos Broadcast Project, which invited the UK public to create a 30 second video clip that could be beamed out to the universe offering a snap shot of life on earth to anyone ‘out there’.

Some 61% of the UK public believe this is just the start of communication with ET life and that we will enter into regular communication with an alien species at some stage in the future.

The winning space-ad entitled ‘Tribe’ was voted for by the British public and directed by 25-year-old Matt Bowron. It will officially be entered into the Guinness Book of Records and will be aired on the more conventional medium of television on Sunday 15th June on ITV at 7.44pm in the ad break of the final Group B game of Euro 2008.

Will space aliens appreciate the nutritional function of Doritos?