Thursday, February 10, 2005

Miniature solar system, diamond world and the science of aliens

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 strange miniature solar system may be composed of a star only slightly larger than a planet. At this scale, are the celestial objects that orbit it planets or moons? See article.
g Abodes – Most of the rocky planets familiar to us are predominantly silicate worlds, but a proposal for carbon or even diamond-like planets may add to the diversity of known solar systems. See article
g Life – The octopus may have flexible arms, but it uses them in the same three-jointed way as vertebrates, in a new a finding that sheds intriguing light on how limbs evolved. See article.
g Intelligence – Positive emotions such as joy and humor help people “get the big picture,” virtually eliminating the own-race bias that makes many people think members of other races "all look alike.” See article.
g Message – Here’s an interesting paper, “The Temporal Aspect of the Drake Equation and SETI", which critically investigates some evolutionary aspects of the famous Drake equation. Note: This paper is a few years old.
g Cosmicus – In January 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush set NASA in motion to begin developing a new spaceship to carry humans into Earth orbit and beyond. Tagged the Crew Exploration Vehicle, or CEV for short, it would be the first piloted vehicle to explore beyond Earth orbit since the space agency’s Apollo glory days. Here’s what NASA is working on.
g Learning – Here’s a great NASA Web site for kids: Astro-venture, where children can search for and design their own planet. See article.

g Imagining – Here’s a neat book you should pick up: “The Science of Aliens” by Clifford A. Pickover.
g Aftermath – Book Alert II: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. Jean Heidmann, Chief Astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers a book, “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation — all of it grounded in real science — is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? See reviews.

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