Monday, February 14, 2005

Broken hearts prove deadly, summertime on Mars (sort of) and voyage to Darwin IV

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 – Here’s an intriguing paper: “Cosmology and the Origin of Life in the Universe,” which explores COSMOLOGY, STARS AND LIFE, BIOLOGY AND STARS: IS THERE A LINK? and HABITABLE UNIVERSES. Note: This paper is from 1998.
g Abodes – Strong westerly winds of up to about 250 miles per hour buffeted the Huygens probe as it descended through Titan's upper atmosphere last month, according to NASA-led observations of the probe transmissions with Earth-based radio telescopes. See article.
g Life – The star-nosed mole gives a whole new meaning to the term "fast food." A study published last week in the journal Nature reveals that this mysterious mole has moves that can put the best magician to shame: The energetic burrower can detect small prey animals and gulp them down with a speed that is literally too fast for the human eye to follow. See article.
g Intelligence – Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that sudden emotional stress can also result in severe but reversible heart muscle weakness that mimics a classic heart attack. Patients with this condition, called stress cardiomyopathy but known colloquially as “broken heart” syndrome, are often misdiagnosed with a massive heart attack when, indeed, they have suffered from a days-long surge in adrenalin (epinephrine) and other stress hormones that temporarily “stun” the heart. See article.
g Message – Just how does SETI work? Here’s a good primer for those looking to get a basic overview.
g Cosmicus – Want to know what Mars is like? Then spend summertime on an island in the Canadian High Arctic — that’s what NASA is doing as it plans for eventual human expedition to the Red Planet. See article.
g Learning – Here's a module, from the Japan Science and Technology Corporation, provides excellent background to the search for life in the universe, for kids. There is information about all the planets in the solar system and possibilities for life beyond, as well as descriptions of spacecraft and signals that originate from Earth (requires Flash plug-in).
g Imagining – Book alert: An abundance of lavish full-color illustrations and detailed black-and-white sketches dominate Wayne Douglas Barlowe's “Expedition: Being and Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV,” a fictional account of a 21st-century exploratory space flight to the imaginary planet Darwin IV. Sent along as the mission's artist, Barlowe describes his "excursions" to survey Darwin IV and the unusual animals he encountered: creatures like the monopodalians, who pogo-stick across a barren, icy landscape, or the winged but flightless Stripewings that are in "evolutionary flux." Numerous "observed" details, such as the length of a Darwinian day (26.7 hours) and the feeding, hunting and mating behaviors of various creatures, help maintain the illusion of realism and immediacy such a first-person narrative demands. See reviews.
g Aftermath – How would humans react the day after ET landed? A nationwide survey by the Roper Organization in 1999 found that the following: “ out of four Americans think most people would “totally freak out and panic” if such evidence were confirmed. See article.

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