Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A shorter day, a new primate and Klingons

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 – The weekend earthquake that struck Indonesia may have had yet another impact: It may have shortened the day. See article.
g Abodes – Can planets orbiting red dwarf M-type stars support life, perhaps even intelligent creatures? So far, most scientists emphatically have said “No.” For a different perspective, see article.
g Life – A species of monkey previously unknown to science has been discovered in the remote northeastern region of India, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. Named after the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh where it was found, the Arunachal macaque — a relatively large brown primate with a comparatively short tail — is described in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Primatology. See article.
g Intelligence – Among the Drake Equation’s factors is the length of time that technological civilization exists before destroying itself or facing some extinguishing natural calamity. Our brief technological period already has been laced with near disasters. A History channel program examines this in “The Doomsday Clock,” which was created in 1947 to symbolize the threat of nuclear war. The hour-long show is on at 4 p.m. Thursday with a repeat at 11 p.m.
g Message – What sort of signal would satisfactorily announce an extraterrestrial intelligence as detected by radio-emission or light reception? For an opinion article on what sort of signal is a SETI hit, click here.
g Cosmicus – NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has returned to its discarded heat shield, which crashed to the planet's surface during the craft's descent and landing last January. Opportunity has been on Mars 325 days. See article.
g Learning – From the Science Ignorance Files: Turns out most psychics’ predictions for 2004 were wrong. Of course, the ones they got right had pretty good odds of happening (such as a 50 percent chance that George W. Bush would be re-elected). See article.
g Imagining –About those forehead ridges on “Star Trek” Klingons: One of the great evolutionary mind puzzles is “Star Trek”’s Klingons. Originally, they had no forehead ridges. Then, when the first movie came out and in all subsequent versions of the show, they did. For years, fans have been trying to explain it logically, using sociological, genetic engineering and evolutionary concepts. There’s a lengthy description of these theories here. Read it soon, however. The latest “Star Trek” incarnation plans a two-part episode in January that once and for all resolves the discrepancy (click here).

g Aftermath – It’s a quite old news story (8 years!), but the issues raised remain relevant and greatly underexamined: If E.T. phones home, will it be safe to answer? See article.

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