Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Origin of light, equine evolution and the Squitch

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 – Light as we know it may be a direct result of small violations of relativity, according to new research. See article.
g Abodes – Since people began clearing valleys and slopes for agriculture more than 9,000 years ago, we have been altering landscapes. University of Vermont geologists explore the link between human actions and landscape — and reach some important conclusions — in the cover article of the April/May issue of GSA Today. See article.
g Life – No single domesticated species has changed human evolution as much as the horse. Long-standing hypotheses about equine size, range and age are thus intimately tied to understanding our own cultural origins. But new fossil evidence points to an older and perhaps smaller ancient horse that adapted from leaf eating to grazing. The result may rewrite the anthropological textbooks as well as the equine ones. See article. For related story, see “Fossil horses undergo evolution in thinking”.
g Intelligence – A gene which is likely to be one of the causes of dyslexia in children has been discovered by researchers at Cardiff University. They believe the major find will give researchers a better understanding of what causes the brain disorder that disrupts reading and writing skills. See article.
g Message – Contrary to a SETI astronomer’s prediction a few weeks ago that we’re about 25 years from receiving an extraterrestrial signal, during an August 2004 symposium at Harvard searchers for life in the universe concluded that we've got a long, long way to go. See article.
g Cosmicus – What if the next space shuttle winds up in trouble, too? What if, like Columbia, it's damaged at liftoff and the astronauts are up in space with a maimed rocketship? Could they be saved? When Discovery is launched in a few months, a four-man rescue squad will be standing by. It's a plan for the unthinkable. See article. For related story, see “Wiring work delays roll over milestone for Shuttle Discovery”.
g Learning – Using an iPod or any portable MP3 player, you can now explore the universe while driving, jogging, waiting in line ... just about anywhere. It's easy: tune in to the NASA podcast.
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 Squitch, a bipedal alien with long, triple-jointed hind legs, which, when extended, scissored out to more than twice the length of the body pod. See article.
g Aftermath – As we begin the new millennium, large elements of both the scientific and lay communities are sensitive to the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. Whereas it is sensible to be cautious as to when unmistakable evidence of ETI will be acquired, some searchers expect this discovery to occur in the near future. From the perspective of our descendants 1,000 years hence, initial contact will be part of history and their attention will be directed somewhere else. At that time, any difficulties or dislocations that occurred during first contact will be long past. Interacting with other civilizations will be no more unusual than interacting with human colonies that will be sprinkled throughout our solar system. One thousand years from now people will be quite different than they are today. Human interaction with ETI could account for only some of these differences. See article.

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