Friday, May 20, 2005

Stellar companions, Pluto Beach and Martian plant pioneer

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 – More than half of the stars in our galaxy have a stellar companion. And yet, of the 130 or so currently known exoplanets (none of which are Earth-like), only about 20 of them are around so-called binaries. The percentage may grow higher. The current ratio is affected by an observational bias: planet hunters tend to avoid binaries because the star-star interactions can hide the planet signatures. See article.
g Abodes – According to a new computer model designed to understand how the conditions for life might arise in unlikely places, humble Pluto and its surroundings will have warmed to downright pleasant temperatures long after the Earth has been consumed by an expanding, dying Sun. "It's Miami Beach for millions of years, potentially longer," Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, says of Pluto's future. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Life – Young male canaries can be taught to sing songs that sound like video game beeps. But wait, there's more. Once it’s time to woo females with love songs, their repertoire switches to more traditional stylings. The new findings, announced last week, surprised researchers studying the innate singing abilities of male canaries. See article.
g Intelligence – Sometimes knowledge can be a bad thing, especially when it comes to exact remembering of certain things. A new study found adults did better remembering pictures of imaginary animals than they did remembering pictures of real cats. See article.
g Message – Interstellar transmissions via energy-markers (photons) or matter-markers (probes) appear to be energetically indistinguishable alternatives for advanced technical societies. Since only Type II and Type III civilizations realistically can afford beacons or star probe technology, alternative distinguishability criteria suggest the possible superiority of intelligent artifacts for contact and communication missions among extraterrestrial cultures. A balanced, more cost-effective Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence strategy is needed. See article.
g Cosmicus – Take the cold tolerance of bacteria that thrive in arctic ice, add the ultraviolet resistance of tomato plants growing high in the Andes mountains, and combine with an ordinary plant. What do you get? A tough plant "pioneer" that can grow in Martian soil. See article.
g Learning – The first step in imagining what a real alien might look like is to forget you ever watched the "The X-Files." They won't be the sinister grays Fox Mulder pursues, little green men or even jolly old E.T. And most assuredly they won't look like us. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Imagining – A complaint lodged again and again against science fiction aliens is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look at least similar (though not identical) to humans? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in The Science of Aliens. Though the book is a few years old, it’s still worth reading. There’s a review of it here and an interview with the author here.
g Aftermath – Some of the best discussion of the consequences of alien contact occurs in science fiction. Here’s a novel that ranks among the most important in that dialogue: Arthur C. Clark’s “Songs of a Distant Earth.” Look for it at your library or local used book store.

Read this blogger’s books

No comments: