Thursday, May 26, 2005

Planet-forming zones, transit messages and Voyager 1 enters the final frontier

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 detailed measurements to date of the dusty disks around young stars confirm a new theory that the region where rocky planets such as Earth form is much farther away from the star than originally thought. These first definitive measurements of planet-forming zones offer important clues to the initial conditions that give birth to planets. See article.
g Abodes – For future Martian astronauts, finding a plentiful water supply may be as simple as grabbing an ice pick and getting to work. California Institute of Technology planetary scientists studying new satellite imagery think that the Martian polar ice caps are made almost entirely of water ice-with just a smattering of frozen carbon dioxide, or "dry ice," at the surface. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Life – Would you know extraterrestrial life if you found it? U.S. scientists are working on a chemical guidebook to create a definitive method to determine whether extraterrestrial rocks have ever harbored life. See article.
g Intelligence – Monkeys that learn to use their brain signals to control a robotic arm are not just learning to manipulate an external device, Duke University Medical Center neurobiologists have found. Rather, their brain structures are adapting to treat the arm as if it were their own appendage. See article.
g Message – Should we be looking for extraterrestrial civilizations, rather than just listening for them, as we do in the SETI project? That is the suggestion of a French astronomer, Luc Arnold, in his paper “Transit Lightcurve Signatures of Artificial Objects.” He believes that the transit of large artificial objects in front of a sun could be a used for the emission of attention-getting signals. See article.
g Cosmicus – NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered the solar system's final frontier. It is entering a vast, turbulent expanse, where the sun's influence ends and the solar wind crashes into the thin gas between stars. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat Web site from NASA: A curriculum framework for comparing Earth to other planets with regard to life. See article.
g Imagining – Book alert: Here’s a neat book, for children 9 and up, which examines “What will they look like?” “Extraterrestrials: A Field Guide for Earthlings”, by Terence Dickinson and Adolf Schaller, is a wonderfully illustrated book for "earthlings" who want to explore beyond the cardboard aliens of television science fiction to find out what science says about our cosmic cousins from other planet — if they exist.
g Aftermath – When an alien lands on the White House lawn, who should greet him (her? it?): Someone from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or someone from the Fish and Wildlife Commission? What rights would an extraterrestrial have? See article. Note: This article is from 1977, but the issue has been thought about very little.

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