Monday, December 27, 2004

Darwin sets sail, top stories of the year and exopolitics

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars – NOVA continues its examination of the quest for a Grand Unification Theory on Tuesday at 7 p.m. CST. The hour-long PBS program examines the unification of five different string theories into a single theory in “The Elegant Universe: Welcome to the 11th Dimension.” Physicist and author Brian Greene hosts.
g Abodes – Scientists have sequenced the genome of the microorganism Silicibacter pomeroyi, which will provide insight into the earth's carbon and sulfur cycling. See article.
g Life – For a great overview of how life has evolved in the one sample we know, and how this knowledge applies to astrobiology, see’s “Life on Earth and Elsewhere” at article.
g Intelligence – Today in 1831, naturalist Charles Darwin set out on a voyage to the Pacific aboard the HMS Beagle. Darwin's discoveries during the trip helped form the basis of his theories on evolution. WGBH has a great overview of Darwin’s life, his time aboard the Beagle and the evolutionary theory here.
g Message – To know where we’re going, we must know from where we came. We may find the two are one and the same. To that end, Astrobiology Magazine offers its list of the top 10 stories in the field for 2004, including exploring Mars, Saturn, comets, and planets beyond Pluto. See “Genesis: In the end” at “Space and the willingness to die”, on the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 8’s launch. Zimmerman authored “Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8” and last year’s impressive "Leaving Earth."

g Learning – Chemistry has never been so unpopular. Universities are lining up to close their chemistry departments and schoolchildren in droves are opting for less demanding subjects. On top of this, chemistry has suffered from a welter of New Age propaganda targeted against unnatural, artificial substances. For many people even the very word "chemicals" has become inextricably linked with environmental pollution and unhealthy toxins. Is there a future for teaching chemistry? See article.
g Imagining – I need a little more time researching our next “Star Trek” alien, the Talosians. So for your daily dose, let me send you to Team 18’s musings on science fiction aliens.

g Aftermath – I offer the following Web site entry on “exopolitics” only as a basis for us to think about how people might react once we know an extraterrestrial civilization exists. Certainly many will give ufology more credence and make fantastical conclusions based upon images in the popular media. Question: How do we counteract this now? Obviously we want people discussing the topic of “exopolitics,” even if it’s in a vacuum. But how do we move beyond silly paranormal notions?

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