Sunday, May 22, 2005

General Relativity breakdown, Titan vs. Earth and the “Jules Verne”

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 – Cosmologists from Princeton University have a new method to understand why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. The proposed technique will be able to determine if the cosmic acceleration is due to a yet unknown form of "dark energy" in the universe or if it is a signature of a breakdown of Einstein's theory of General Relativity at very large scales of the universe. See article.
g Abodes – Observations of Titan's atmosphere offer a unique look at how Saturn's giant moon compares to Earth. Methane, the main component in natural gas, plays a key role in the makeup of atmospheric conditions on Titan. See article.
g Life – What is the fastest way to locate a randomly hidden object? Animals searching for food may instinctively be following the best strategy. See article.
g Intelligence – When you need to remember specific details, try thinking like a child. A new study pitted college-aged adults against 5- to 11 year-old kids in a memory contest. The younger contestants won by paying better attention to the details. Adults, it seems, get lazy. See article.
g Message – Current searches for extraterrestrial life focus on detecting electromagnetic waves, mainly via radio. Here’s a good primer to electromagnetic radiation.
g Cosmicus – In 2006, with the launch of Jules Verne, the Automated Transfer Vehicle will become the new European powerful automatic re-supply spaceship able to bring an indispensable payload to the International Space Station and its permanent crew. This first ATV will carry a mix of supplies depending on the Station's needs and its own payload capacity. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat Web site for science lovers: “Extremophiles: Can We Live Without Them?” Just 50 years ago tiny microorganisms were found living in environments that would kill all other microorganisms. The site provides an introduction to extremophiles and their unique qualities.
g Imagining – Book alert: Of course, quality science fiction is really less about aliens than the human condition. That’s why you ought to scour some used bookstores for this rare edition: “Star Trek on the Brain: Alien Minds, Human Minds,” by Robert Sekuler and Randolph Blake. An educational and entertaining nonfiction work that uses Star Trek to explain the workings of the human mind, the authors (both psychology professors) have put together an excellent and highly readable neurology primer. Their two-pronged task is to give a Star Trek example and then link it to contemporary science of the nervous system. Do you want to better understand emotions, their cultural implications and universal expressions? Then this is the book. See reviews.
g Aftermath – "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" isn’t really about where to book a cheap, but clean, hotel in the Perseus Arm, or how to avoid dicey neighborhoods like the galactic center, where you risk being fricasseed by radiation or dismembered by a massive black hole. No, this movie is about coming to grips with the immensity of space, and making it psychologically accessible. See article.

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