Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Amateurs look in on stellar nursery, diabetes linked to ice age and public spaceflight by 2007

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 – Using a giant telescope on Mauna Kea Hawaii is a dream for most amateur sky watchers. Recently a Canadian amateur astronomy group took advantage of a rare opportunity and used one of the largest telescopes in the world, the Gemini 8-meter telescope, to look more deeply into the remains of a particular stellar nursery than anyone ever has. See article. For related story, see “Amateurs Get Best Look at Stellar Nursery".
g Abodes – NASA scientists have solved an age-old mystery by finding that Mars' southern polar cap is offset from its geographical south pole because of two different polar climates. See article.
g Life – Some researchers think Northern European people about 13,000 years ago developed what's now known as Type 1 diabetes to keep from freezing during an ice age. See article.
g Intelligence – A simple, elegant method could enable scientists to predict how groups of neurons respond to one another and synchronize their activity, report a group of investigators at Carnegie Mellon University. Their work, in press with "Physical Review Letters," ultimately could help scientists understand how neurons network with one another in learning and disease. See article.
g Message – Here’s an intriguing paper that argues the famous Fermi Paradox is a logical fallacy. See article. Note: This article is from 1984.
g Cosmicus – A Canadian space tourism firm has teamed up with a U.S. businessman to form a new company that aims to launch its first public spaceflight by 2007. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a good Web site that gives an general overview of astrobiology for kids: “Astrocentral”.
g Imagining – Dumb or brainy, fair or hideous, extraterrestrial life forms are often pictured by scientists and writers of science fiction as inhabiting worlds just the right distance from stars — neither too hot nor too cold. Rays of starlight in such temperate zones are seen as warming planetary surfaces and alien races, providing a ready source of energy and, most important, the right amount of heat to keep life-giving water from boiling away or turning into ice. But a quiet revolution is now challenging this view and shaking the foundations of exobiology, the study of the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos. See article. Note: This article is from 1997.
g Aftermath – Here’s an intriguing essay that discusses what might happen if we do too little to contact extraterrestrials; as the authors argue, “…skepticism regarding SETI is at best unfounded and at worst can seriously damage the long-term prospects of humanity. If ETIs exist, no matter whether friendly or adversarial (or even beyond such simple distinctions), they are relevant for our future. To neglect this is contraryy to the basic tenets of transhumanism. To appreciate this, it is only sufficient to imagine the consequences of SETI success for any aspect of transhumanist interests, and then to affirm that such a success can only be achieved without trying if they come to us, which would obviously mean that we are hopelessly lagging in the race for galactic colonization.” See article.

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