Saturday, May 14, 2005

New moon, Japanese SETI and Columbia’s last days

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 – In a spectacular kick-off to its first season of prime ring viewing, which began last month, the Cassini spacecraft has confirmed earlier suspicions of an unseen moon hidden in a gap in Saturn's outer A ring. A new image and movie show the new moon and the waves it raises in the surrounding ring material. See article.
g Abodes – Of the more than 130 planets found around distant stars, a large number have highly elliptical orbits, crazy oblong shapes that have surprised theorists who try to explain the configurations with near collisions or perturbing disks of gas. See article.
g Life – Mark Hebblewhite can look at specific climate statistics from the north Pacific Ocean and tell you how the elk are doing in Banff National Park. The University of Alberta doctoral student is the first researcher to show a correlation between the North Pacific Oscillation and a mammal population. See article.
g Intelligence – Here’s a fascinating paper, “Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer”: The goal of research in evolutionary psychology is to discover and understand the design of the human mind. Evolutionary psychology is an approach to psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are put to use in research on the structure of the human mind. It is not an area of study, like vision, reasoning, or social behavior. It is a way of thinking about psychology that can be applied to any topic within it. In this view, the mind is a set of information-processing machines that were designed by natural selection to solve adaptive problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This way of thinking about the brain, mind, and behavior is changing how scientists approach old topics, and opening up new ones. This chapter is a primer on the concepts and arguments that animate it.
g Message – Two Japanese observatories have started a probe to find signs of extraterrestrial life using radio and optical telescopes, in Japan's first government-backed search for aliens. See article.
g Cosmicus – Must-watch TV: At the same time both touching and heart-wrenching, “Astronaut Diaries” is a one-hour window into the two years of training that prepared the STS-107 astronauts for their flight, based on 150 hours of personal video shot by Columbia astronaut David Brown and his crewmates. Brown was planning to make a personal film about his first spaceflight and recorded video throughout his crew’s training and up to the point when he entered Columbia’s hatch, where onboard cameras took over. The documentary will debut on the Science Channel today at 8 p.m. CT.
g Learning – Today is the SETI Institute’s second annual Science Day. Say thanks to a teacher. See article.
g Imagining – Ever wondered how all those traditional space-opera and epic-fantasy races - the pig-faced warriors, the smug bumheads, and all the rest - came up with their wonderfully clichéd alien vocabularies? It's not difficult; once you've mastered these basic rules, you'll be able to produce names and phrases just as stereotypical as theirs. See article.
g Aftermath – Epicurus, in the fourth century BC, believed that the universe contained other worlds like our own, and since his time there has been considerable debate whether extraterrestrial life exists and might communicate with us. During the last quarter of the 20th century, an international social movement has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, CETI, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials have already been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See article. Note: This article is from 1994.

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