Sunday, February 13, 2005

Building block black holes, smallest ever extra solar planet detected and a Darwin Decimal System

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 energy created when black holes merge contributes to star formation while blowing gas to the outskirts of a galaxy, creating a limit as to how much the black hole can consume, a new computer simulation shows. The work helps confirm what astronomers have increasingly suspected in recent years — that black holes are integral players in the process of galaxy building. It also meshes nicely with several observations. See article.
g Abodes – Penn State's Alex Wolszczan, the discoverer in 1992 of the first planets ever found outside our solar system, now has discovered the smallest planet yet detected, in that same far-away planetary system. Immersed in an extended cloud of ionized gas, the new planet orbits a rapidly spinning neutron star called a pulsar. See article.
g Life – If it's pretty easy to spot different species in the human-scale part of the plant and animal kingdoms. But a new study shows that species differences aren't so clear, at least as currently measured, when it comes to microscopic bacteria. The solution? A Darwin Decimal System. See article
g Intelligence – North American adults have problems perceiving and reproducing irregular rhythms. That's what past studies have shown, and some new research has addressed the question of whether our seeming inability to dance to a different tune should be chalked up to nature or culture. New findings point to a harmonious blend of both. See article.
g Message – In 1974, astronomers sent the "Arecibo message," a binary-coded signal that decodes to a graphic illustrating some basic characteristics of Earth. The message was intended more to demonstrate the power of the telescope than to contact distant civilizations. Cornell's 25th anniversary announcement includes a decoded explanation and more information about what the scientists were thinking. See article.
g Cosmicus – What is the preferred way to explore space: A) Robots or B) Humans? Try C) Both. See article. Note: This article is from January 1999.
g Learning – One of the best ways to develop a love for and interest in science among kids is fun, hands-on “experiments.” The Exploratorium has some neat projects using household items.

g Imagining – Book alert: “What Does a Martian Look Like? The Science of Extraterrestrial Life,” by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, draws on serious science — biology, chemistry, astronomy and physics — and also on science fiction, because the best of it has “made some useful contributions to the scientific understanding of possibilities for alien lifeforms.” See reviews“Discovery Of Extraterrestrial Life Could Have Profound Impact On Religion” by reporter on the religion beat (Sorry that it comes from one of those dreadful UFO Web sites, but this was the only spot I could find it archived for free and in its entirety.).

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