Project Phoenix - SETI
Project Phoenix ran from February 1995 until March 2004. It performed radio observations of over 700 Sun-like stars within 200 light-years of Earth. Although 700 is a fairly large number of stars, remember that this is only a very small fraction of the whole Milky Way galaxy which has 100 to 400 billion stars and is a total of 100,000 light years across. The SETI search listened for signals at frequencies between 1,200 to 3,000 Mhz. The channels were 0.7 Hz wide, i.e. over 2 billion channels were studied. The project listened for 100 to 550 seconds per star per frequency channel. No evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence was found.read more
Tau Ceti - Inhospitable to Life
UK astronomers studying the Tau Ceti system have discovered that it contains ten times as much material in the form of asteroids and comets as our own solar system. Tau Ceti, at only 12 light years away, is Earth's nearest Sun-like star and is easily visible without a telescope. The discovery suggests that any planets that may orbit Tau Ceti would not support life as we know it due to the inevitable large number of devastating collisions. It also suggests that the tranquil space environment around the Earth may be more unusual than previously realised. See the press PPARC release: Tau Ceti - Asteroid Alley
Image by David Hardy
Hubble discovers 100 new exoplanets
One of the most promising ways for narrowing the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence is to first look for places where ET might be living. And today the BBC is reporting that the Hubble Space Telescope may have discovered 100 new planets orbiting stars in our galaxy. If confirmed this would almost double the number of known exoplanets to about 230. Most of these planets are gas giants, the size of Jupiter or greater. But as it becomes apparent that many stars harbour planetary systems, the likelihood of finding an Earth-like planet (and thus Earth-like life) increases. See the BBC report: Hubble discovers 100 new planets
The 3rd Space Elevator Conference
The 3rd International Space Elevator Conference took place in Washington, USA, on 28th - 30th June 2004. For a report on what happened, see the Space Elevator Conference Notes by Blaise Gassend
SpaceShipOne - Scaled Composites
UPDATE: Scaled composites have announced that SpaceShipOne flew into space for the first time on 21st June 2004! This was not, however, a shot at winning the Ansari X-Prize. Instead an X-Prize attempt is rumoured to be made towards the end of September 2004.
SpaceShipOne is a privately funded 3-person spacecraft which is designed to reach suborbital altitudes. This marks a historic milestone in the story of manned space exploration. It has, for the first time, signaled the opening of space to private corporations and individuals. In the next 2 to 3 years space travel will not only be available to government funded astronauts, but also to private individuals.
Hugo de Garis - Research Update
Earlier this evening I looked up Hugo de Garis' website for the first time in over a year. If you've been following artificial intelligence research for more than 2 or 3 years then you'll remember that Hugo de Garis was quite a prominent character back in 2000/2001. He would frequently appear in populist TV shows and magazine articles claiming that he was only a couple of years away from building an artificial brain with the intelligence of a cat. Within 5 or 6 years he hoped to have constructed a billion cell, self-evolving, neural network which would begin to show human levels of intelligence.
The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization which carries out scientific research, education, and public outreach. They have just over 100 scientists, educators and support staff. The SETI Institute is based in Mountain View, California and funded by many sponsors including NASA, various U.S. government departments, Sun Microsystems, Gordon and Betty Moore, Hewlett Packard, etc...
Space Elevator - An Introduction
The space elevator is a concept for enabling cheap access to space. A tether is fixed to an anchor on the Earth's surface and stretches vertically upwards, 62,000 miles into space. The tether is held up by the centripetal force exerted by a counter-weight at the far end as the Earth spins....read more
Biosynthesis of Carbon Nanotubes
The estimated tensile strength of a Carbon Nanotube is about 200 Giga Pascals, an order of magnitude higher than that of any other material. This makes CNT's the most likely candidate for the tether of a Space Elevator. But how to produce a nanotube, or bundle of nanotubes, that is thousands of Km's long? It seems to me that spinning nanotubes out of a furnace is a bit random. What we need is a pure, single molecule, multi-walled nanotube, no? For that we need some kind of controlled nanoassembly technique. So would biosynthesis work? Is it possible to use biological enzymes to synthesise carbon nanotubes?...read more
The Honey Bee Brain
Why are we interested in the brain of the honeybee? What does this have to do with artificial intelligence. The Honeybee is another of biology's model organisms. It has been studied in great detail. Part of the reason for this is its importance to mankind as a producer of honey and wax. Thus we know lots about it's brain and its behaviour. This section of the website explains the behaviour of the bee and the structure of its brain. They are small but show a certain level of intelligence....read more