Monday, April 25, 2005

Solar nebula’s life cycle, red dwarf biology and what animals think of humans

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 oxygen and magnesium content of some of the oldest objects in the universe are giving clues to the lifetime of the solar nebula, the mass of dust and gas that eventually led to the formation of our solar system. See article.
g Abodes – If you want to find extraterrestrial intelligence, you're going to have to look in the right place. In our galaxy alone there are more than 100 billion stars, so you might expect to find a profusion of alien abodes. But which suns do you point your telescope at? Bright, yellow stars like our own Sun have always seemed the obvious place to start. In the past few years, though, researchers have begun to wonder if they've been neglecting a whole class of likely targets: red dwarfs. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Life – A search for extraterrestrial bugs which may be invading Earth has been launched by British scientists. See article.
g Intelligence – If you live with animals, the real question isn’t whether they can think or not. It’s “What do they think of humans?” It isn’t a personal question—Have I earned the horses’ respect? — it’s a philosophical one. Living with animals means coming to terms with who they are and what makes them tick. That’s what you want to know when you train a dog or ride a horse or try to catch a barnyard goose. At least that’s what I want to know. I live and write on a small farm in New York State, and since my work, most days, means asking questions about the world around me, I find myself wondering about the animals I live with. I take it for granted that they also wonder about me. I can see the questions in their eyes, in the tilt of their ears: Who are these humans? Why do they behave the way they do? See article.
g Message – If "E.T." is out there, whether in the form of intelligent beings or much simpler organisms, we may soon be hot on its trail. For the first time in history, the dream of searching for signs of life in other solar systems belongs not only on the philosopher's wish list, but also on the list of doable and planned human endeavors. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus – Chip-scale refrigerators capable of reaching temperatures as low as 100 milliKelvin have been used to cool bulk objects for the first time, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology report. The solid-state refrigerators have applications such as cooling cryogenic sensors in highly sensitive instruments for semiconductor defect analysis and astronomical research. See article.
g Learning – If science communications in astrobiology is about researchers sharing their results, the audience for new findings may well turn out to be a surprising finding in itself. John Horack, one of the principal Internet architects for how a Webby-award winning NASA site found its audience, explains new ways to view the problem of sharing science. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining – What will an alien look like? If you follow the viewpoint of most television sci-fi, then all aliens will be men in rubber alien suits. The producers of “Star Trek” seem to think aliens are just like humans with little latex ridges on the noses or foreheads. The reason for this anthropomorphism on TV is that it’s cheap. The alien in the movie “Alien” was gross and ugly, and we surely would never be able to discuss our New Age feelings with such a creature. It cost the movie producers much more than a little latex on the bridge of an actors nose. The truth is that we are much more likely to meet Sigourney Weavers’s alien than a Bajorran. See article.
g Aftermath – Book alert: In “Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe,” published in late 2003, authors Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of alien a life, and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. They explain why scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds, how we could discover it, and what it might be like. Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. See reviews.

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