Friday, February 18, 2005

Happy birthday, Pluto!

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g MARS LIFE FOLLOWUP — A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting arlier this week that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water. On Thursday, scientists said water was common across a vast region of ancient Mars, creating habitable conditions for long stretches of time billions of years ago. New data reveals water in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars extended across hundreds of thousands of square miles, at least as groundwater and possibly as shallow lakes or seas. See article.
g Stars – The planet Pluto turns 75 today. Clyde Tombaugh discovered the ninth planet in the solar system on the afternoon of Feb. 18, 1930, while he meticulously examined a pair of deep sky photographs at Lowell Observatory. See article.
g Abodes – Worldwide deforestation, mining, overgrazing and the diversion of water have combined to create huge dust clouds that carry bacteria, viruses, soot, acids, radioactive isotopes, and pesticides from Asia and Africa to the United States. See article.
g Life – New findings, made by researchers studying the outcome of a decades-long fox-breeding experiment, suggest that some aspects of social intelligence in animals are correlated with genetically selected “tame" behavior — for example, fearlessness and non-aggression toward humans. Understanding how intelligence evolved in humans and other animals remains one of the central evolutionary questions yet to be answered by behavioral scientists. Of particular interest is how social problem solving evolves; many believe it is our own social intelligence that differentiates us from all other species. See article.
g Intelligence – The evolution of the sense of fairness may have involved the quality of relationships, according to behavioral researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. See article.
g Message – Book alert: In response to Enrico Fermi's famous 1950 question concerning the existence of advanced civilizations elsewhere, physicist Stephen Webb critically examines 50 resolutions to explain the total absence of empirical evidence for probes, starships and communications from extraterrestrials in “If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life.” See
g Cosmicus – The European Union's head office on Thursday called for more international cooperation in space as plans move ahead for a combined global observation system to predict natural disasters like tsunamis and drastic weather changes. See article.
g Learning – Over and over again, science teachers at a recent convention remarked that their students are always asking about SETI and astronomy. Kids have a keen interest in astronomy, space sciences, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. What's out there? Are we alone? Ironically, this interest is not uniformly reflected in the state science education standards across the USA and these state standards drive textbook content. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Imagining – No longer can a science fiction writer create a goo-dripping alien just because a story line requires an adversary from another planet to drop in on our unsuspecting world. The average reader is not going to buy into the B-rated movies of old; it takes more than an actor in a rubber mask for them to suspend their disbelief and enjoy a story or novel. Bringing an alien species into a novel requires a bit of planning and thought on the part of the writer. See column.
g Aftermath – Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We feel that the problem of extraterrestrial life is one of the most important questions raised in science to the present. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising form the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See article. Note: This paper is from 1999.

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