Sunday, March 27, 2005

Gamma Earth, the search for Dyson spheres and the Mossbacks

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 – Among the most humorous scenes in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is when aliens, about to destroy the Earth to make way for an interstellar freeway, are told that no one here knew about the road plans. The alien commander incredulously responds that the plans have been on display at Alpha Centauri for a half-century. We’ve never been to Alpha Centauri, a human responds. Well, the alien commander says, if we can’t bother to take an interest in local affairs, that’s our problem — and in a flash Earth is gone. Here’s a site to help you figure out our local neighborhood. It includes superb maps and descriptions of each star system.
g Abodes – A NASA-funded scientist has produced a new type of picture of the Earth from space, which complements the familiar image of our "blue marble." This new picture is the first detailed image of our planet radiating gamma rays, a type of light that is millions to billions of times more energetic than visible light. See article.
g Life – A construction crew has unearthed what appear to be at least 10,000 years old mammoth bones north of this central Washington town and northeast of Yakima, the company owner says. See article.
g Intelligence – Your brain cells change channels sort of like a television, scientists say. See article.
g Message – Here’s a new take on searching for extraterrestrial life: A U.C. Berkeley student is looking for signs of advanced civilizations that have enclosed their home star within a giant sphere at In Search of Dyson Spheres. See article.
g Cosmicus – The world's revolutionary first solar sail — named Cosmos 1 — is creeping closer to flight as tests are checked off one-by-one in advance of its launch aboard a converted ballistic missile in the next one to two months. See article.
g Learning – What could be better than seeing the first Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered? Watching it being taken apart. Visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which has one of the oldest and largest dinosaur collections in the nation, will be able to watch as the museum's collection of fossilized dinosaur skeletons are taken apart before a renovation of the museum's almost century-old Dinosaur Hall. See article.
g Imagining – You may recall from the “Learning” entry of a few days ago that for several years a “game” called COTI has been available, in which the “players” design an integrated world, alien life form and culture and simulate contact with a future human society. Here are the results of one of those simulations, in which humanity encounters the Mossbacks — picture a warm blooded, hermaphroditic, tool-using, horny toad as big as a grizzly bear, with colorful algal symbiotes imbedded in thick tissue of its naked skin. See article.
g Aftermath – Search for Life in the Universe: In this two-part essay, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, reflects on the scientific and cultural implications of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. Read Part I. Note: This article is from 2003.

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