In the heavens, as it is on Earth
Proof of the existence of extraterrestrial life may be closer than we think, thanks to a surge of research in astrobiology. Lewis Dartnell is determined to ascertain that we are not alone
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Astrobiology in the UK
Mark Burchell and Lewis Dartnell review the current standing of astrobiology research in the UK, and look to future success.
Also available at Astronomy and Geophysics
Hunting for life in alien worlds
Two of the most fundamental questions asked by people are how life emerged on the Earth, and whether we are alone in the cosmos. These deeply important questions form the core of a new kind of science, one that recently has been rapidly gathering momentum: astrobiology. Lewis Dartnell explains.
With the thunderous launch of the Delta II rocket this weekend, not only was the Kepler space telescope lofted into the sky, but also our hopes of finding a Second Earth. But now, after those few minutes of intense excitement, comes several months of impatient waiting.
Search for a Second Earth
How to spot an Alien Earth
The first world beyond our solar system was discovered in 1992, and since then astronomers have been finding such ‘extrasolar planets’ (also abbreviated to ‘exoplanets’) at an ever quickening rate. As techniques and telescopes increase in sensitivity, the race is on to be the first to announce the discovery of a truly terrestrial exoplanet – a Second Earth. Continue reading
Learning from probabilities
Computer scientists are now using ‘Bayes’ theorem’ to build computers that are more intelligent and even able to learn for themselves. Here we’ll show how you can use just sweets and pots and a pinch of Bayes’ theorem to find out who stole a chocolate biscuit! You’ll discover how likely it is that someone with chocolate smudged on their fingers is the real culprit. You can run this is an activity with your friends at home or ask your teacher to run it in class.
One of the most exciting branches of computer science is called machine learning. Machine learning aims to find ways for computers to solve complex problems by learning for themselves. For instance, a computer can use trial and error when it is learning how to play games and win by learning from its mistakes.
Security is very important on the internet. You often need to prove to another person that you know something but without letting them know what the information actually is (because they could just copy and use it). For example, you might need toconvince an online music shop that you know your password for their website without sending them the password itself.
Keeping secrets secret
One of the most important concerns with using modern technology is how to keep your secrets secret. For instance, you wouldn’t want anyone to intercept your emails and read them or to listen to your mobile phone conversations. This is especially important when someone is sending their credit card details to an online shop. And it is crucial that banks, big businesses and governments know that any information they send through the internet stays safe.