Monday, February 07, 2005

Being bird-brained not so bad, the Game of Life and talking to ET

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 – New research from the University of Michigan shows that there may be an upper limit to the mass of a star, somewhere around 120 to 200 times bigger than our sun. Knowing that there may be a limit to a star's mass answers a fundamental question, but raises a raft of other issues about what limits their mass. See article.
g Abodes – How much water does life need to survive? Scientists are trying to find that answer in the driest place on Earth. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life – More bird-brained than you thought: The brains of birds appear to be more similar to those of mammals than previously thought. An international consortium, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, last week announced new language to identify brain structures in birds. This landmark change, the first such shift in a century, reflects new evidence about the function and evolution of the vertebrate brain, mapping out similarities between structures and cognitive abilities in avian brains and the brains of mammals. The Consortium report is published in the February 2005 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience. See article.
g Intelligence – Lovesickness can kill and should be taken more seriously as a legitimate diagnosis, according to health experts. See article.
g Message – SETI isn’t just an American endeavor. The Southern SERENDIP project is using the Parkes radio telescope in Australia to search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. See article for an overview and additional links.
g Cosmicus – About 20 years ago, a common topic of discussion within the space movement was the window of opportunity for getting humanity established as a spacefaring civilization and how narrow that window of opportunity might be. It’s a conversation space advocates seem to have dropped in recent years, maybe because we’ve gotten tired of it. But it’s an important conversation, and we need to talk about it some more. For more, see article.
g Learning – What types of work do people do when searching for life elsewhere? Find out while meeting some of the most famous astrobiologists here.
g Imagining – Want to play the “Game of Life”? Then cick here. OK, it’s not really a game. It is an implementation of cellular automata that John H. Conway chose to call "The Game of Life." It simulates the birth, death, etc., of organisms based on certain rules. If you like Tetris, you’ll find the game amusing.
g Aftermath – What if we did contact another intelligent life form in the universe? Should we respond? What should we say? What traits best represent our humanity? Douglas Vakoch, the SETI Institute’s director of Interstellar Message Composition, is working with scientists, artists, linguists, composers, and others to imagine how to speak for our planet. Here’s a Web cast in which Vakoch describes his work; scroll to “Talking with ET.”

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