Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Asteroid flyby, near-infrared laser communications and NASA’s new budget

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 – An asteroid expected to fly past Earth in 2029 will be visible to the naked eye, scientists predict. It's a once-in-a-millennium event, but the flyby will be visible only from Europe, Africa and western Asia. See article.
g Abodes – It took humans until the 20th century to build a nuclear reactor. Mother Nature, on the other hand, built one that turned itself off and on, stored its waste and never threatened a meltdown — and did it some 2 billion years ago. See article.
g Life – By analyzing the genetic origin of a modest spot on a fruit fly wing, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have discovered a molecular mechanism that explains, in part, how new patterns can evolve. The secret appears to be specific segments of DNA that orchestrate where proteins are used in the construction of an insect's body. See article.
g Intelligence – New research builds on earlier studies showing that people with lower IQs tend to die sooner than those with higher IQs. See article.
g Message – What are the advantages of looking for ET using near-infrared laser communications? There’s a good explanation at a University of Kentucky Web site.
g Cosmicus – NASA's requested budget for the next fiscal year sees a small increase in funding, but the proposed robotic servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope has been scrapped in President George W. Bush's spending plan released Monday. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a cool Web site to get kids interested in volcanoes. It includes Games & Fun Stuff, Legends about Volcanoes, Virtual Field Trips and more. See site.
g Imagining – Here’s a neat Web site that lists a variety of quality science fiction books focusing on aliens and their encounters with humans. Scroll to “START HERE IF YOU KNOW WHAT SUBGENRE CATEGORY YOU LIKE” and click on ALIENS ON EARTH. The day-glow green background on this Web site is painful, but every book listed is a good read.

g Aftermath – Book alert: Pick up “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” by inventor and software developer Brian McConnell. The book examines whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it. This last problem, which occupies the final half of the book, proves to be the most thought provoking. See reviews.

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