Thursday, April 07, 2005

Starburst galaxies, organic relics and cloud creatures

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 – A team of European scientists has used Virtual Observatories to compare observations of distant "starburst" galaxies made at radio and X-ray wavelengths. This is the first study to combine the highest resolution and sensitivity radio and X-ray images that penetrate the dust hiding the centers of some of these distant galaxies. See article.
g Abodes – Injecting synthetic "super" greenhouse gases into the Martian atmosphere could raise the planet's temperature enough to melt its polar ice caps and create conditions suitable for sustaining biological life. In fact, a team of researchers suggests that introducing global warming on the Red Planet may be the best approach for warming the planet's frozen landscape and turning it into a habitable world in the future. See article.
g Life – At Astrobiology Magazine, planetary scientist Chris McKay asks one of the most interesting questions in astrobiology: How would one know an organic relic when it appears? See article.
g Intelligence – Researchers and volunteers around the world are taking early steps toward a complex but straightforward technological goal: to use electrical signals from the brain as instructions to computers and other machines, allowing paralyzed people to communicate, move around and control their environment literally without moving a muscle. See article.
g Message – I’ve finally found online the classic paper published in Nature that initiated in 1959 the age of Electromagnetic SETI: “Searching for Interstellar Communications,” by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison. See article.
g Cosmicus – NASA has approved up to 18 more months of operations for Spirit and Opportunity, the twin Mars rovers that have already surprised engineers and scientists by continuing active exploration for more than 14 months. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “Investigating the Dynamic Martian Polar Caps.” Students explore seasonal changes on Mars and Earth by analyzing images of the polar ice caps in summer and winter. See article.
g Imagining – Could “cloud creatures” exist on alien worlds? Here’s one writer’s speculations: article.
g Aftermath – If SETI is successful in detecting an extraterrestrial civilization, it will raise the question of whether and how humanity should attempt to communicate with the other civilization. How should that decision be made? What should be the content of such a message? Who should decide? The same questions would apply to proposals that signals be sent in the absence of detection, in the hope that they might be detected by an extraterrestrial civilization. See article. Note: This paper was presented in October 1995.

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