Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Looking under rocks, laughter as the best medicine and an alien design bibliography

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 – A new theory of how planets form finds havens of stability amid violent turbulence in the swirling gas that surrounds a young star. These protected areas are where planets can begin to form without being destroyed. The theory will be published in the February issue of the journal Icarus. See article.
g Abodes – An unusual, fragmented rock called Peace appears to have been cemented by some action that the Spirit rover has yet to analyze completely. If the sulfate-rich interior represents Epsom salts, or magnesium sulfates, then the discovery may hint at a percolating water history near the Columbia Hills. See article.
g Intelligence – Laughter might be the best medicine for transforming the faintest of glimmers of hope into an eternal spring, reveals research at Texas A&M University that shows humor may significantly increase a person's level of hope. See article.
g Message – How might we become aware of extraterrestrial civilization’s existence? Click here for a fantastic overview of strategies.
g Learning – Here’s a neat set of lessons about “Life in the Universe” that teaches kids some basic astronomical facts and mathematical skills along the way.
g Imagining – Alien design bibliography: When science fiction writers set out to design a world, they usually take care that their physics and astronomy conforms to known science by reading a few physics and astronomy books. But when designing aliens, anything goes, it seems! The problem appears to be that the literature of biology is simply unknown in the SF world. Mention Freeman Dyson or Robert Forward, and most hard SF readers and writers will know whom you are talking about. But mention Steven Vogel or Colin Pennycuick, and you are likely to be rewarded with polite bafflement. Here’s a list of books that’ll give you a solid grounding in biology. See bibliography.
g Aftermath – Here’s an intriguing entry from the “Interdisciplinary Encyclopeadia of Religion and Science”: “Extraterrestrial Life”. It discusses the consequences of alien contact from a Catholic perspective.

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