Monday, December 20, 2004

Learning sounds, space food and Thasians (part II)

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 – General relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory marks the light topic of PBS’s “NOVA” on Tuesday (runs 7 p.m. CST to 9 p.m.). The 2-hour show, “The Elegant Universe: Einstein’s Dream” and “String’s the Thing” features Brian Greene, author of “The Elegant Universe.”
g Abodes – Air pollutants are fundamentally destroying the way vapor clouds form, according to a new report in today’s New Scientist. See article.
g Life – If you’re looking for a good overview of biology’s role in “astrobiology,” see “Evolution and the Origin of Life”. It includes a number of quality, reputable links.
g Intelligence – New research indicates that baby songbirds and human infants learn sounds in similar ways. See article.
g Message – If you’re not familiar with’s “Great Debates series, you’ll want to head right away to their Web site. The discussions draw upon experts in the astrobiology field. The Fermi paradox (“If there’s intelligent life out there, then why haven’t we heard from them?” is examined in six parts here.
g Cosmicus – It’s not just about crumbs floating in zero gravity: Space scientists are looking for ways to make astronaut food better tasting and longer lasting. See article.
g Learning – There’s a nice piece about stimulating student achievement in science and mathematics, with actual teacher activities, at this weekend’s RedNova. See article.
g Imagining – Thasians, Part II: It appears I was too quick to judge in my last post on the Thasians. No sooner had I posted than I began reading through an older astrobiology text, “Life Beyond Earth” (by Gerald Feinberg and Robert Shapiro), when they introduced the notion of “plasmobes,” which could explain the Thasians. Such creatures would consist of a “central pattern of moving charges held together by its own magnetic forces, and of detached sections of charges held together and moving according to forces generated by the central pattern,” Feinberg and Shapiro wrote. “The outlying sections could act as gatherers of energy and of certain ions that are necessary to the plasmabeast’s metobolism. … the size of the whole plasmabeast would depend on the environmental conditions in which it lives, since magnetic forces would weaken when they extend in all dimensions over great distances.” This would explain the Thasians’ need for spacecraft, as they must have a shell to recreate their planet’s environmental conditions. The Thasians appear to be more plausible then the humanoid salt vampire.

g Aftermath – Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” shows how little we’ve thought about this question.

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