Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cosmic dust bunnies, evolution of laughter and anthropomorphic animals

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 – Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. An image made from data obtained with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies. See article.
g Abodes – Astronomers have long thought that the best place for life as we know it is a planet in the "habitable zone" — the range of orbits that leads to planets with liquid water — surrounding a main sequence star like our sun. Science fiction writers know better, and now astronomers are rethinking past work. See article.
g Life – Life can be funny, and not just for humans. Studies by various groups suggest monkeys, dogs and even rats love a good laugh. People, meanwhile, have been laughing since before they could talk. See article.
g Intelligence – Could a technologically oriented intelligence as likely arise from a predatory species as a non-predatory one? An anthropologist explores the possibilities.
g Message – Is there anybody out there? A famed astronomer and a renowned evolutionary biologist held different views. Read the classic debate between Ernst Mayr and Carl Sagan on extraterrestrial intelligence. See article.
g Cosmicus – In Sweden's far north, the freezing temperatures are so cold that some have likened it to the chill of outer space. Now, tourists seeking to experience that can go one step farther — and beyond — by duplicating weightlessness aboard chartered flights that hurl their occupants around an airplane cabin, floating in zero gravity conditions as if they were astronauts. Late this summer, a company called Xero AB begins offering the first zero-gravity flights from Kiruna, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat Web site with excellent graphics: “The Origin of Life and Evolution of the Cosmos”. It explores events that led to the origin of life on Earth.
g Imagining – When you immerse yourself in a fantasy world, chances are you’re going to come across a talking animal sooner or later. They’ve been running around fantasyland for a long time now. Anthropomorphic animals have been thoroughly sterilized, humanized and sanitized for the purposed of conveying allegory. It’s about time science fiction and fantasy let them return to their roots. See article.
g Aftermath – Once scientists are certain that we’ve received a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization, how would we decide to respond? Read the proposal “A Decision Process for Examining the Possibility of Sending Communications to Extraterrestrial Civilizations”, made at the International Academy of Astronautics meeting in Paris during 2000.

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