Thursday, March 03, 2005

Star womb, sea vents and nature loves a helix

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 – The best look ever inside a womb of star birth reveals a force at work astronomers were not aware of. Like a baby's first ultrasound, scientists peered into a stellar envelope to capture the earliest and most detailed view of a collapsing cloud of gas and dust, NASA announced Tuesday. The images were made mostly with the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory. See article.
g Abodes – New keys to understanding the evolution of life on Earth may be found in the microbes and minerals vented from below the ocean floor, say scientists at the University of California-Santa Barbara. The scientists are making new contributions to this field of inquiry in their studies of seafloor hydrothermal fluid discharge into the Earth's oceans, which has been occurring ever since the oceans first formed four billion years ago. Conditions below the sea floor may most closely mimic the environment when life began. See article.
g Life – Something about nature loves a helix, the ubiquitous spiral shape taken on by DNA and many other molecules found in the cells of living creatures. The shape is so useful that, while researching the means of creating self-assembling artificial helices, physicists at the University of Pennsylvania believe that they have come across a plausible mathematical reason for why the helical shape is so common. See article.
g Intelligence – Archaeologists have discovered a group of giant figures scraped into the hills of Peru's southern coastal desert that are believed to predate the country's famed Nazca lines. See article.
g Message – Phoning home intergalactically may have one natural prerequisite if a civilization is hoping to connect: timing their precursor signal or 'ring' so that we might know that they're broadcasting. Dr. Robin Corbet, of the Universities' Space Research Association discusses his research findings on Synchronized SETI. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus – A Russian cargo-delivery freighter safely docked to the International Space Station today, ferrying more than two tons of supplies and equipment for the outpost and its resident crew. See article.
g Learning – A new report from AAAS, the world's largest general science society, explains how 10 K-12 school districts, serving some of the nation's poorest inner-city regions, are improving performance and closing the gap between minority and non-minority students in science and mathematics. See article.
g Imagining – Like Klingons? Here’s your answer to almost any question you can think of. The Web site is short on evolutionary biology of Klingons, but it does touch on the topic.
g Aftermath – To create interstellar messages that have a realistic chance of being understood across interstellar distances, we need to identify some information shared by humans and extraterrestrials. We need to identify a foundation for establishing a universal language that will let us bridge the gap between our world and theirs, all without the convenience of face-to-face contact. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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