Sunday, December 26, 2004

Rare alignment, bad headline and the salt vampire (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 – And some of you thought there was no good reason to visit Iowa (especially during winter): Mercury, Mars and Venus will align each morning through Wednesday, giving Iowans a glimpse at something they haven't seen for at least 100 years. See article.
g Abodes – Going on vacation? Hop a plane to Hawaii — but forget the tropical ocean beaches and opt for a night in a volcanic crater. It’ll give you a real sense of the earth’s most fundamental forces at work. The Arizona Republic offers some trip tips here.
g Life – An unknown catastrophe nearly 2 million years ago changed the ecosystem of the Western Atlantic, according to a research paper published this past week in "Science." See article.
g Intelligence – Ugh — You’ve got to hate today’s headline on “New fossil study contradicts the theory of evolution”. The piece is a biased rewrite of a story released a couple of months ago about the discovery of a dwarf hominid species on an Indonesian island. The discovery actually supports evolution by showing that creatures in isolation adapt to their environment; in this case — as has been the case with many dinosaurs separated from the mainland onto an island — the species evolved proportionately smaller as the space available to it was limited. This is just another example of the general ignorance about the fact of evolution. Please contact WebIndian123 and ask them to at least correct their headline if not the story itself.
g Message – The Toledo Blade has written an editorial about the last year’s signal emanating from a point in deep space between the constellations Pisces and Aries, more than 1,000 light years away (the infamous SHGb02+14a signal). It’s a positive sign to see mainstream media treat astrobiology seriously — an indication that the general public also is becoming more accepting. See editorial.
g Cosmicus – The International Space Station is visible in the early morning. Information about how, when and where to see it is available here.
g Imagining – A reader has pointed out that I overlooked one of the most significant features of the salt vampire alien discussed in the Dec. 18 entry of this section: the ability to change appearance. I skipped it primarily because of its incredible unlikeliness, but the feature does play a significant role in the episode. While possessing chameleon-like qualities certainly would be plausible, the salt vampire has the ability to read a mind and from that project an image (as well as voice, touch, scent, etc.) of what the observer imagines. This might be accomplished through some type of holographic imaging beyond our technology, and raises the issue: If the salt vampire possesses this knowledge, certainly manufacturing salt isn’t beyond its abilities! There’s more, though: The salt vampire can simultaneously read multiple-minds and project the image each wants to see. Presuming this is possible, the salt vampire might not be projecting these images so much as reading the observer’s mind then tricking it into false interpretations of from the various senses, in a sort of hypnosis. Still, of all the creatures we’ve discussed so far, the salt vampire appears to be the least likely to have evolved — though Balok, merely because of his human-like qualities, is a close second.
g Aftermath – Could Martian research samples carry diseases? Certainly this is an issue for the first time we make contact with extraterrestrial life, whether it is intelligent or microbial. See article.

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