Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Impact’s fireball, faithful Marmosets and artificial intelligence (part I)

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 – For a great examination of planetary habitability (and chock full of linkable references!), see SolStation’s “Stars and Habitable Planets”.
g Abodes – Scientists have explained how a globe-encircling residue formed in the aftermath of the asteroid impact that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs. The study draws the most detailed picture yet of the complicated chemistry of the fireball produced in the impact. See article.
g Life – A squirrel-sized primate with white hair dancing out of its ears, the common marmoset finally may dispel tired stereotypes about promiscuous fathers in the animal kingdom. When psychologists exposed marmoset males to the scent of ovulating females, the researchers expected hormone levels to spike in every male as a result of heightened sexual arousal. See article.
g Intelligence – Children who watch a lot of television are more prone to push other kids around, according to the research. Conversely, four-year-olds whose parents tend to read to them, eat meals with them and go on outings together are significantly less likely to become bullies in grade school. See article.
g Message – Humanity might want to consider searching for extraterrestrial technologies within our solar system. See article.
g Cosmicus – Book alert: In 1973, Carl Sagan published “The Cosmic Connection,” a daring view of the universe, which rapidly became a classic work of popular science and inspired a generation of scientists and enthusiasts. In Sagan's typically lucid and lyrical style, he discusses many topics from astrophysics and solar system science, to colonization, terraforming and the search for extraterrestrials. Sagan conveys his own excitement and wonder, and relates the revelations of astronomy to the most profound human problems and concerns: issues that are just as valid today as they were thirty years ago. New to this edition are Freeman Dyson's comments on Sagan's vision and the importance of the work, Ann Druyan's assessment of Sagan's cultural significance as a champion of science, and David Morrison's discussion of the advances made since 1973 and what became of Sagan's predictions. Who knows what wonders this third millennium will reveal, but one thing is certain: Carl Sagan played a unique role in preparing us for them. See reviews.
g Learning – Here’s a neat Web site: “Introduction to Exobiology”. It explores the field of exobiology from a lay perspective including a self-test. Part of the Cruising Chemistry project at Duke.
g Imagining – Artificial Intelligence, Part I: You don't see artificial intelligence in science fiction the way you used to, and for a good reason. Back in the Golden Age of science fiction, when computers were new, the size of a small house and overwhelmingly powerful, it seemed obvious that pretty soon computers would be as smart as — no, smarter than — humans. They would be capable of dizzying virtue or terrifying vice. Any day now, experts predicted confidently, the breakthrough would come. Any day now we'd see true artificial intelligence. Any day now we'd have computers we could talk to. See article.
g Aftermath – Will we ever find a primer for decoding messages from extraterrestrials? Late last year, anthropologists who gathered for a major conference in Atlanta heard some news that will be sobering for SETI enthusiasts: It may be much more difficult to understand extraterrestrials than many scientists have thought before. See article.

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