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First contact with another civilization, or simply another intelligence of some kind, will likely be quite different depending on whether that intelligence is more or less advanced than ourselves. If we assume that the lifetime distribution of intelligences follows an approximately exponential distribution, one might naively assume that the pile-up of short-lived entities dominates any detection or contact scenario. However, it is argued here that the probability of contact is proportional to the age of said intelligence (or possibly stronger), which introduces a selection effect. We demonstrate that detected intelligences will have a mean age twice that of the underlying (detected + undetected) population, using the exponential model. We find that our first contact will most likely be with an older intelligence, provided that the maximum allowed mean lifetime of the intelligence population, τmax, is ≥ e times larger than our own. Older intelligences may be rare but they disproportionately contribute to first contacts, introducing what we call a ‘contact inequality’, analogous to wealth inequality. This reasoning formalizes intuitional arguments and highlights that first contact would likely be one-sided, with ramifications for how we approach SETI.
Previous analyses of adolescent suicides in England and Wales have focused on short time periods.
To investigate trends in suicide and accidental deaths in adolescents between 1972 and 2011.
Time trend analysis of rates of suicides and deaths from accidental poisoning and hanging in 10- to 19-year-olds by age, gender and deprivation. Rate ratios were estimated for 1982–1991, 1992–2001 and 2002–2011 with 1972–1981 as comparator.
Suicide rates have remained stable in 10- to 14-year-olds, with strong evidence for a reduction in accidental deaths. In males aged 15–19, suicide rates peaked in 2001 before declining. Suicide by hanging is the most common method of suicide. Rates were higher in males and in 15- to 19-year-olds living in more deprived areas.
Suicide rates in adolescents are at their lowest since the early 1970s with no clear evidence that changes in coroners' practices underlie this trend.
The science of extra-solar planets is one of the most rapidly changing areas of astrophysics and since 1995 the number of planets known has increased by almost two orders of magnitude. A combination of ground-based surveys and dedicated space missions has resulted in 560-plus planets being detected, and over 1200 that await confirmation. NASA's Kepler mission has opened up the possibility of discovering Earth-like planets in the habitable zone around some of the 100,000 stars it is surveying during its 3 to 4-year lifetime. The new ESA's Gaia mission is expected to discover thousands of new planets around stars within 200 parsecs of the Sun. The key challenge now is moving on from discovery, important though that remains, to characterisation: what are these planets actually like, and why are they as they are?
In the past ten years, we have learned how to obtain the first spectra of exoplanets using transit transmission and emission spectroscopy. With the high stability of Spitzer, Hubble, and large ground-based telescopes the spectra of bright close-in massive planets can be obtained and species like water vapour, methane, carbon monoxide and dioxide have been detected. With transit science came the first tangible remote sensing of these planetary bodies and so one can start to extrapolate from what has been learnt from Solar System probes to what one might plan to learn about their faraway siblings. As we learn more about the atmospheres, surfaces and near-surfaces of these remote bodies, we will begin to build up a clearer picture of their construction, history and suitability for life.
The Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory, EChO, will be the first dedicated mission to investigate the physics and chemistry of Exoplanetary Atmospheres. By characterising spectroscopically more bodies in different environments we will take detailed planetology out of the Solar System and into the Galaxy as a whole.
EChO has now been selected by the European Space Agency to be assessed as one of four M3 mission candidates.
Despite the number of known exoplanets increasing on an almost weekly basis, the question as to whether exoplanets host moons remains unanswered. Exomoons could be potential seats for life, as well as improving our understanding of planetary formation and celestial mechanics. Here we summarize our findings from an investigation into how detectable habitable-zone exomoons are with Kepler-class photometry.
For an extrasolar planet on an eccentric orbit, the orbital velocity is constantly changing, even during a planetary transit. This changing orbital velocity will, in general, cause lightcurve assymetry. The asymmetry causes the mid-transit time to be slightly off-centre from the halfway point between transit ingress and egress. For GJ436b, we estimate that the mid-transit time is shifted by 20 seconds. In the case of a system experiencing secular changes, this difference will lead to a long period transit time variation (L-TTV) signal, under the typical definition of the mid-transit time. In this work, we describe the origins of the effect and evaluate it in the case of GJ436b experiencing hypothetical secular changes. We predict L-TTV could be used to map secular changes in such systems.
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