Monday, May 09, 2005

Interloper Phoebe, probing Martian rocks and bacteria acquiring genetic material

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 – Saturn's battered little moon Phoebe is an interloper to the Saturn system from the deep outer solar system, scientists have concluded. The new findings appear in the May 5 issue of the journal Nature. See article.
g Abodes – To help a NASA rover eventually hunt for life on Mars, scientists are writing a chemical guidebook to aid the search for extraterrestrial life. Using new imaging tools and earthly parallels of ancient Mars environments, they're recording the types of subtle chemical changes that Martian microbes may have left on the planet's rocks. The researchers hope someday to arm a Mars rover with a suite of tools - a guidebook, precise chemical imagers, and human-like reasoning ability - and let it search for signs of alien life on its own. See article.
g Life – Bacteria acquired up to 90 percent of their genetic material from distantly related bacteria species, according to new research from The University of Arizona in Tucson. See article.
g Intelligence – Human intelligence has evolved steadily over the course of thousands of generations without drastic change in the environment. However, the challenges we face in modern society have forced the independent domain of intelligence to assume the roles that other domains would have played in the primitive environment in which we evolved. There are clear genetic links that predispose people to have a larger cerebral cortex, allowing them to better deal with the challenges of the expanded workload modern life puts on our intelligence domain. Evolution has not yet had a chance to catch up to the rapid progress we have made as a society and might not due to human circumvention of natural selection. See article.
g Message – For the past few years, the SETI community has marveled at the development of the ambitious Paul Allen Telescope, a mini-Cyclops consisting of up to a thousand phased satellite TV-type dishes. While saluting the efforts of our California colleagues, The SETI League has been hard at work on its own phased array design, more modest in scope but quite as technologically audacious. When completed, Array2k will employ a unique mix of analog and digital techniques to operate in five distinct modes simultaneously. Optimized as a drift-scan sky survey instrument in the proud tradition of Ohio State's Big Ear, it will serve as its own Follow-Up Detection Device, verifying its own findings in real time. See article.
g Cosmicus – The resumption of flights is of great importance for the International Space Station. It will allow more frequent service visits to pursue the construction of the orbital complex and allow long duration missions for three astronauts — instead of two. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat software program: Hands-On Universe. It’s an educational program that enables students to investigate the Universe while applying tools and concepts from science, math, and technology. Using the Internet, Hands-On Universe participants around the world request observations from an automated telescope, download images from a large image archive, and analyze them with the aid of user-friendly image processing software. See article.
g Imagining – The sci-fi industry is massive with nearly every conceivable genre being developed at a frightening pace. A few decades ago wobbly plastic aliens terrorized mainstream viewers while Captain Kirk shagged his way through the ones with mystical powers of soft focus. Thankfully those days are largely dead — or are they? See article.
g Aftermath – Communicating with Aliens, Part III: What are the challenges to comprehension in initiating and maintaining strategic dialogue in highly uncertain situations — such as with extraterrestrials? See article.

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