Astrobiologists searching for life elsewhere in the universe use the current understanding of life to target their search. Small, rocky, Earth-like worlds are considered more likely to be hospitable to life as we know it. But scientists have only recently been able to detect these smaller planets thanks to newer tools like the Kepler space telescope.
Studying the atmospheres of these rocky worlds would help to better determine if they could support life. Because oxygen is so important to life on Earth, detecting oxygen on an alien planet would be an exciting indicator that life could potentially exist there. Unfortunately, current telescopes are not sensitive enough to analyze the atmospheres of these small rocky planets. But massive telescopes currently being constructed will be able to see such atmospheres, and perhaps detect oxygen on an alien world.
Artist’s impression of the E-ELT. (Credit: ESO/L. Calçada)
According to NewScientist.com, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will be one of these giant telescopes. The European Southern Observatory explains that the E-ELT will be “the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world and will gather 13 times more light than the largest optical telescopes existing today.”
But as NewScientist.com explains, detecting oxygen on one of these planets is still going to be a long shot because “an exoplanet has to pass in front of its star many times to gather enough data to say for sure whether oxygen is present. Depending on the planet’s orbit and the size of its star, that could take between 4 and 400 years.”
The E-ELT is projected to begin operating in the next decade.
Released in cinemas last week, Escape from Planet Earth has
received generally negative reviews from critics, scoring a measly 27% on RottenTomatoes.com
at the time of writing. The children’s film -- which sees aliens escape from
Area 51 -- has so far grossedapproximately $23 million against its $40 million
In one of its more positive write-ups,
Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Farber describes Escape from Planet Earth as
“Passable animated entertainment” that is “stronger on humor than
Wrap’s Alonso Duralde was less kind, noting
that “The kids in the theater with me never mustered a single laugh or gasp of
excitement” and calling the film “a black hole of
Laramey Legel of Film.com
is even more to the point with his observation that the film “Has it all for
people looking for nothing.” Ouch.
Megan Fox to star in
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’
Michael Bay has announced via his website
that he will reunite with Megan Fox for his upcoming alien-flavoredTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
There's no word yet on who Fox will play, but it seems almost certain she’ll
take the role of reporter April O'Neil.
The good news is that Bay will not be
directing TMNT, only producing it. The bad news is that the director is to be
Jonathan Liebesman, who delivered the filmic abortions Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans. In case readers
still care, the film will begin shooting in April and is currently scheduled for
release on May 16, 2014.
‘Ben 10’ movie gets a
It was announced in 2011 that producer Joel Silver was working
to bring Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 to the big screen.
The project has been developing ever since, and now The
Hollywood Reporter has it that Ryan Engle has been
hired to rewrite the screenplay (which was previously drafted by Albert
The kids’ TV series is about a boy, Ben
Tennyson, who discovers a strange wrist watch that allows him to transforms into
10 different aliens with super powers.
Engle is best known for his work
on the forthcoming video game adaptation
Expect a 2014
‘The Host’: new
The latest trailer for the up-coming
body-snatching alien teen flick The Host...
J.J. Abrams to make
‘Half-Life’ and ‘Portal’ movies?
screen versions of the Half-Life and Portal video games may be on
the horizon. Polygon
reports that Gabe Newell – managing director of game company Valve – joined
director J.J. Abrams on stage at the recent DICE Summit where the pair dropped
hints that they are to team up creatively.
"There's an idea we have for a game that we'd
like to work with Valve on," said Abrams, who recently signed-up
to helm the new Star Wars movie for Disney and LucasFilm.
"We're super excited about that,"
Newell added, "and we also want to
talk about making movies, either a 'Portal' movie or a 'Half-Life' movie... What we are
actually doing here, we are recapitulating a series of conversations going on.
We reached the point that we decided to do more than
The first Half-Life game was released in 1998
and follows a theoretical physicist, Gordon Freeman, who opens a dimensional
rift between a New Mexico research facility and a world of alien monsters called
is a spinoff of Half-Life
released in 2007. In it, a test subject named Chell is forced to navigate a
rival research company's laboratories armed with a device that can open portals
There are a number of intriguing disclosures contained in one of the batches of declassified British Government files on UFOs that surfaced in 2012. Among them are the notable (and lengthy) references to, and papers on, certain people within the UK-based UFO research field who had been secretly watched by officialdom. In some cases, they were watched for a very long time and by more than one agency or arm of the British Government. Interestingly, the “saucer spying” was undertaken by agencies outside of the Ministry of Defense. Yet, we have, for years, been led to believe that the MoD is the only agency that plays a meaningful role in the UFO issue when it comes to the British Government. Governments distorting and hiding the facts? Really? Surely not?! And should we be surprised to learn that other UK departments, beyond the MoD, are also implicated in the UFO puzzle? No, of course we shouldn’t be surprised! In fact, nothing should surprise us when it comes to official secrecy and saucers in the sky. The National Archive summarizes the information – and the relevant now-declassified, official files which I’m talking about - in the following fashion: “File DEFE 24/1984/1 (p294) contains a 1996 Parliamentary Question from Martin Redmond MP asking on how many occasions MI6 and GCHQ have monitored UFO investigations. This was interpreted to mean ‘have the agencies been keeping watch on UFOlogists.’ A background briefing says ‘neither agency in fact undertakes such activity, though GCHQ cannot rule out the possibility’ they had monitored ‘in other contexts individuals who have made a study of UFOs’. The MP was told the government do not comment on the intelligence and security agencies (p298).
“File DEFE 24/1987/1 (p262-65) reveals that in 1997 Special Branch took an interest in a UFOlogist who became obsessed with rumours of a secret UFO facility beneath RAF Rudloe Manor in Wiltshire. The base had become known as the British equivalent of the secret US military airbase ‘Area 51′ among conspiracy theorists. An internal note said ‘Special Branch…do not believe he poses a specific threat to security, but they are alert to the risk that others may use him as a conduit for their activities.’” Well, since the summary very conveniently fails to note the names of the people in question, it’s up to me to tell you who they were (and who they still are!).
Back in 1997, Robin Cole, of Cheltenham, England – the home to GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters) – wrote a fascinating and unique report on the agency’s involvement in the UFO phenomenon. And, for those who may not be aware of it, GCHQ is the UK equivalent of the US National Security Agency. After Cole’s report was published, he was visited by two representatives of the UK’s Special Branch, who wanted to “have a chat.” And since the pair made the mistake (a somewhat disastrous mistake, from their perspective) of announcing their visit in advance (via an early morning phone-call), Robin had the quick sense to clandestinely set up an audio-tape-recorder in his living-room. So, when the pair arrived and reeled off their questions to the fairly alarmed UFO researcher, Robin duly captured the entire conversation for posterity and without their knowledge. Much of the question-and-answer session with Robin (which, I should stress, was very cordial and not at all like what one would expect from the likes of the dreaded Men in Black) revolved around Special Branch’s deep interest in a Welsh UFO researcher named Matthew Williams – who just happens to be the “UFOlogist who became obsessed” with Royal Air Force Rudloe Manor, as referenced by the National Archives above.
I wrote extensively about the very (and I do mean VERY) weird saga of Robin and Matt in my 2006 book, On the Trail of the Saucer Spies, including the intricacies of the Special Branch/GCHQ angle as it related to the dynamic duo. I also told the whole story in the book of what is now just starting to surface via the UK Freedom of Information Act, more than half a decade later. The Cole/Williams story is an extremely strange one. It’s filled to the conspiratorial brim with tales of phone and house surveillance, possibly illegal entry into a private residence and the “acquisition” (or, as most of us understand the term, “stealing”) of certain photos of certain places, the Royal Air Force’s Provost and Security Services, and much, much more. At the time that On the Trail of the Saucer Spies was published, certain people in Ufology scoffed at my words and said it was utterly laughable to think that Special Branch and GCHQ might be involved in watching Matt and Robin, or indeed any players in late-1990s UK Ufology. I’m very pleased to see that seven years after On the Trail of the Saucer Spies was written, the files finally demonstrate the story was correct. Ufology is being watched…