Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Exoplanet anniversary, Yellowstone caldera and ‘Alien Planet’

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 – Astronomers met last week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first planet discovered around a normal star other than the Sun. Although more than 130 other such planets have been found since then, the field still feels like it is just getting started. See article.
g Abodes – The Yellowstone caldera has been classified a high threat for volcanic eruption, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey. Yellowstone ranks 21st most dangerous of the 169 volcano centers in the United States, according to the Geological Survey's first-ever comprehensive review of the nation's volcanoes. See article.
g Life – Scientists can recite a long list of the devastating environmental consequences of a large meteorite impact, but they cannot prove these effects have led to the simultaneous loss of life around the globe. Answering the question of how and why such a large variety of species died out at the same time is one of the greatest mysteries in paleontology. See article.
g Intelligence – In this interview excerpt from PBS’s “Evolution: The Mind's Big Bang," British psychologist Susan Blackmore talks about her theory of memetic evolution, which explains how beliefs, ideas and stories are selected and passed down. See article.
g Message – The nonprofit SETI League began conceptual design work in 1999 on Array2k, a planned phased array of satellite TV dishes, to be used as an amateur radio telescope of unique flexibility. Although the funding required to implement this design still eludes us, The SETI League has amassed, through a multitude of grants and small contributions, the resources necessary to construct a small-scale prototype. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Cosmicus – Despite urgent warnings from Hollywood, double-jawed aliens are probably not a spacefarer's biggest risk. Radiation is worse. It shreds not flesh, but DNA molecules, and that can cause a multitude of problems. One big one: it can lead to cancer. See article.
g Learning – Must see TV: “Alien Planet” takes viewers on a dramatic virtual mission of the future – a trip to a fictional planet known as Darwin 4 — in a new Discovery Channel world premiere Saturday, 7-9 p.m. Central. Rooted in the latest scientific research from the NASA Origins Program, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Planet-Finder Mission and European Space Agency’s Darwin Project, this special two hour computer-animated program features some of the world’s most renowned scientists, including Stephen W. Hawking, Michio Kaku and J. Craig Venter, plus “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas, who discuss the possibilities of life outside our solar system and deconstruct the animals on Darwin 4, based on the laws of evolution and physics. The premiere of “Alien Planet” kicks off Discovery Channel’s “Space Week,” May 14-21. See article.
g Imagining – So, you want to design your own alien species for a science fiction story. The guidelines at this Web site describe some of the general thought processes that went into the creation process, and apply to both sapient and non-sapient life forms. First and foremost, always remember to use our own wonderfully weird earth for inspiration. Insects and deep-marine life forms both provide examples body types and lifestyles that seem very alien indeed. See article.
g Aftermath – Communicating with Aliens, Part IV: How might interested parties envisage the design of a human team to prepare for an encounter with aliens — and improve the operational guidelines for that eventuality? See article.

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