Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dusty inner solar system and astrobiology gets dictionary definition

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 – Looking at a star similar to our sun, the Spitzer Space Telescope has detected a dusty inner solar system. Violent collisions within a large asteroid belt may be generating all this dust. Such an asteroid belt also would present a danger to any habitable planets orbiting the star. See article.
g Abodes – What are the primary bioindicators for remote sensing of life on a far-away world? A report prepared for future space-borne telescopes that will seek to answer this question, also looks deeper into how to find and confirm these prospective water worlds. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Life – Does the famous Martian meteorite, found in the Antarctic, really contain microscopic fossils as suggested by some scientists? Scientists are hard at work trying to answer that question – by looking for evidence that the conditions were suitable for life and for signs of biological activity in the ratios of the abundances of isotopes of carbon and other elements in the rock. They are also trying to answer other questions about life in the universe, for example, by designing a space telescope to look for evidence of life on Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars. The science of searching for signs of extraterrestrial life – exobiology – is blossoming. Like many new disciplines, it draws together previously separated sciences, and recent progress in such diverse fields as biology, chemistry, paleontology, geology, atmospheric physics, meteorology, space exploration and astronomy has revolutionized the subject. See article.
g Intelligence – A little humor can brighten your outlook, a new study suggests. See article.
g Message – Whenever the director of SETI research presents a public lecture, she can almost guarantee that “What If everybody is listening and nobody is transmitting?” will be one of the questions the audience asks. See article.
g Cosmicus – As expected, NASA managers Wednesday announced a May 22 target date for shuttle Discovery's liftoff on the first post-Columbia mission, saying time needed to close out a handful of open issues precluded an attempt at the May 15 opening of the actual launch period. See article.
g Learning – A dictionary like no other in the world, the Oxford English Dictionary has been described as "among the wonders of the world of scholarship." Last year, the OED announced the term, astrobiology, among its latest new entries. Defining a field that spans traditional disciplines may be as complicated as defining what is "life" itself. For semantic purposes, astrobiology is now officially about "the discovery or study of life on other planets and in space." See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining – Would life forms on other worlds have to possess eyes, ears and limbs like higher organisms on Earth? Would they have to have a similar genetic code? Or can life exist not as we know it? These questions may be unanswerable now, but astrobiologists are anxious to answer the underlying question: How do you define life? See article. Note: This article from 2004.
g Aftermath – What changes can we expect in our culture if there is a prevalence of the living state throughout the cosmos? See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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