Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dark energy, Mars sea-ice and ‘Nightfall’

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 – Dark energy — a mysterious force that causes matter to accelerate away from other matter — fuels the expansion of our universe, but it's an oddly small force. But if it were bigger and caused matter to fly apart any faster, you would not be here to read these words. See article.
g Abodes – Recent observations from the orbiting Mars Express probe may show the characteristic rippling expected from past sea-ice. When coupled with findings that methane may be generated today on Mars, this sea-ice finding enriches the debate over modern prospects for life-supporting conditions on the Red Planet. See article.
g Life – How the Earth adapted to life has much to do with the generation of a stable oxygen atmosphere. But how life adapted to Earth often hinges on whether oxygen is a poison. New research on insect oxygen use highlights the novel ways that life has shaped the Earth, and vice versa. See article
g Intelligence – For Ingrid Carey, confusion is orange, July is bluish-green, and chocolate makes her breath smell dark blue. Scientists no longer think people like her are crazy. See article.
g Message – Just as our own robots reach out beyond the solar system, searching for life elsewhere may well involve hailing some kind of space artifact in our own neighborhood. At least one style of life search is about looking for the technological evidence of life, rather than its wet biology. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus – What will it be like for our future astronauts, traveling through the dark expanse of space to the Moon, Mars and beyond, millions of miles from everything they know and love? It could get a little lonely out there, surrounded by gray walls, knobs and computer screens. But scientists at Kennedy Space Center in Florida are trying to provide NASA's space travelers with a connection to Earth by growing and caring for live plants they also can eat. See article.
g Learning – The voice of science is being stifled in the Bush administration, with fewer scientists heard in policy discussions and money for research and advanced training being cut, according to panelists at a national science meeting. See article.

g Imagining – For a fascinating speculation about how one’s environment (in this case, astronomical surroundings) affects a race’s psychological evolution, be sure to read the classic short story “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov. Most science fiction fans consider it among the best — if not the best — science fiction story ever written. In this story, where the aliens’ planet is in a six-star system, the world’s inhabitants believe that life “is fundamentally dependent upon light.” You can find the story in “the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. One.”
g Aftermath – Should we really expect extraterrestrials to be sympathetic to our pleas to be altruistic because of the symbolic kinship we might share with them? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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