Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mars’ core, cold-loving organisms and Project BETA

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 – The MOST space telescope has given astronomers new clues about an exotic star, at least ten times more massive than our Sun, spewing gas into space at a rate of more than 100 trillion tons per second. See article.
g Abodes – A new study concludes that the core of Mars is the consistency of the syrupy goop found inside chocolate-covered fruit candy. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Life – At a recent meeting of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, molecular evolutionist Mitch Sogin argued that if we want to learn how to look for life on other worlds in our solar system, we should study cold-loving organisms on Earth. See article.
g Intelligence – Genetic factors appear to influence individual differences in language development among children, at least in part, according to a study by British and American researchers. The study, which also found that environmental influences on children's language development were unique to the individual, not the shared environment, was published in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development. See article.
g Message – A number of searches for extraterrestrial intelligence actually have occurred, are ongoing and are planned. Here’s one of the more famous ones: Project BETA, at Harvard University. See article.
g Cosmicus – As the Spirit and Opportunity rovers continue their extended studies of Mars, NASA's Mars program appears headed for change. The shift will be driven by a variety of factors including technical and budget issues, as well as a "rebalancing" of science objectives. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat Web site for kids: “A Virtual Tour of the Solar System”, sponsored by national Geographic. This site takes you on an impressive 3D or 2D tour of the solar system and gives tons of info and facts.
g Imagining – Among the first and most memorable of “Star Trek” aliens is the salt vampire (photo). Could such a creature exist, though? Forgetting the problem of its facial arrangement (eyes-nose-mouth from top to bottom), which repeats Earth’s evolutionary path for vertebrates, the salt vampire receives a mixed review. Consider its shaggy coat, which appears to be inconsistent with bipedalism in a warm climate; humans likely lost their primate hair because doing so allowed our bodies to cool better in the African savanna — and the salt vampire’s planet is hot, probably orbiting a G-class star that has entered its red giant phase (judging by climate and sky color). Of course, the creature could be a hominid that just come down from the trees, which certainly would be sparse on such a planet. But its intelligence level indicates a much longer path of evolution. Perhaps the planet was in a cold state before the star entered its red giant phase. On another note, the creature’s need for salt is voracious for the chemical is in short supply; that seems at odds with the hot desert climate for halites would form as the sun’s expansion caused the seas to evaporate. Possibly, the creature, being the last of its kind, simply had gone mad, expressing its psychosis through murder — which explains why Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock felt no mercy for it when phasering it to death at episode’s end!
g Aftermath – Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” shows how little we’ve thought about this question.

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