Monday, March 21, 2005

Challenges facing NASA, virtual mission to Mars and panspermia

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 – Unlike humans, stars are born with all the weight they will ever have. A human's birth weight varies by just a few pounds, but a star's weight ranges from less than a tenth to more than 100 times the mass of our Sun. Although astronomers know that stars come in a variety of masses, they are still stumped when it comes to figuring out if stars have a weight limit at birth. See article.
g Abodes – A geologist says he may have figured out what caused mysterious gullies on Mars: water trickling from the melting of snow that had built up over thousands of years. His theory may help scientists figure out where to seek signs of life on the planet. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Life – Do you think macroevolutionary theory explains little, makes few or no testable predictions and has not been scientifically demonstrated? Then you be wrong. See article.
g Intelligence – Common behaviors are innate rather than learned, study suggests. See article.
g Message – SETI researchers have long had to beg time on instruments built for conventional radio astronomy. Now they're building one of their own. See article.
g Cosmicus – The brainy rocket scientist nominated by President Bush and endorsed by key members of Congress to lead NASA as it shifts from space shuttles to moonships seems to have it all and know it all. But Michael Griffin will need every one of his seven degrees plus political savvy to take on the monumental challenges ahead of him. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity: Carry out a "virtual Mars mission" just like the one Mars Pathfinder's rover, Sojourner, performed then apply that new knowledge to future Mars missions. Activities are for grades 4-12. See lesson plan.
g Imagining – What is panspermia, a concept that appears in a number of science fiction stories, and how plausible is it? See article.
g Aftermath – Here’s an intriguing essay that discusses what might happen if we do too little to contact extraterrestrials; as the authors argue, “…skepticism regarding SETI is at best unfounded and at worst can seriously damage the long-term prospects of humanity. If ETIs exist, no matter whether friendly or adversarial (or even beyond such simple distinctions), they are relevant for our future. To neglect this is contraryy to the basic tenets of transhumanism. To appreciate this, it is only sufficient to imagine the consequences of SETI success for any aspect of transhumanist interests, and then to affirm that such a success can only be achieved without trying if they come to us, which would obviously mean that we are hopelessly lagging in the race for galactic colonization.” See article.

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