Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Is there or was there ever life on Mars?

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 –An international consortium of 200-plus scientists, engineers, technical specialists and students has formally inaugurated an ambitious new effort to probe the secrets of neutrinos, the elusive subatomic particles that have played a central role in the origin of the universe, the evolution of the Sun, and much else. See article.
g Abodes –Recent discoveries on Mars such as methane in the atmosphere, a subterranean ice pack near the equator and evidence of flowing water in the planet's past brings new speculation to the most frequently asked questions about the Red Planet: Is there or was there ever life on Mars? See article.
gLife –Finally, something good may come of all those computer viruses. Bugs spread on the Internet can serve as a model for controlling invasive species, according to a new study. See article.
g Intelligence –The discovery of an island-dwelling pygmy in anthropological records raises a host of contentious questions, such as is the skeleton representative of a different, smaller human species? Or is the pygmy just an example of one individual's growing pains? New analysis of the brain cavity suggests the pygmy is not just a smaller version of modern humans. See article.
g Message –We often assume extraterrestrials will be smart enough to contact us. But what if they aren't? How do we find them then? See article. Note: this article is from 2001; it contains a good overview of the Drake Equation, which the format of this blog is based upon.
g Cosmicus –A team of scientists from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has created the first reproducible single molecule negative differential resistor — and in the process has developed a groundbreaking experimental technique that provides a “roadmap” for designing single-molecule devices based on biochemistry. What effect could this have on space exploration? See article.
g Learning –The nation's top technology executives took Capitol Hill Tuesday with a unified message for lawmakers: the United States is in danger of losing its competitive IT edge. They rightly called on Congress to increase spending on math and science education and to fund more and better tech-oriented retraining programs for displaced workers. See article.
g Imagining – Star Trek fans will be happy to know that “The Animated Series” — 22 cartoon episodes from the 1970s — will be released on DVD on March 15, just six days from now. Each day I’ll examine the evolutionary plausibility of the primary alien species, episode by episode, in this space. Here's a list of some of the species you’ll read about here.
g Aftermath –Book alert: As many Earthlings already know —including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience — our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations” (by Brian S. McConnell), an introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life, begins with some of the details behind UC Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer Brian McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it. This last problem, which occupies the final half of the book, proves to be the most thought provoking, and McConnell has put together a methodical, nuts-and-bolts walkthrough of both the challenges involved and how binary code might be enlisted to solve them. See article.

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