Saturday, May 28, 2005

Where laws of physics don’t quite apply, Titan’s youthful surface and National Geographic’s “Extraterrestrial”

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 – What if the speed of light is a constant only most of the time? What if gravity sometimes pushed instead of pulled? Scientists are increasingly asking what would seem like far-out questions regarding the laws and rules of physics after discovering conditions and materials where the rules don't quite apply. Take the Doppler effect. See article.
g Abodes – How old is Titan's surface? For years, Saturn's moon Titan was thought to have mastered the cosmetic surgery of the cosmos, with barely a mark or wrinkle to betray its true age. Close-up views provided by Cassini instruments show that Titan is nearly as flawless as it seems from a distance, with only two impact craters found so far. A world with a more youthful surface may be more likely to harbor life. See article.
g Life – Flowers have flourished and evolved their beauty partly because we're so emotionally attached to them, scientists say. See article.
g Intelligence – It's true — many of you don't go a day without dishing out several doses of sarcasm. But some brain-damaged people can't comprehend sarcasm, and Israeli researchers think it's because a specific brain region has gone dark. See article.
g Message – Here’s a good overview of the Drake Equation — though the rest of the Web site itself is a bit suspect.
g Cosmicus – There are already lessons learned that if not heeded might hold back the sky-high hopes of space tourism operators. See article. For related story, see “Space Tourism: An 'Adventure Sport' In the Making”.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity, courtesy of NASA: Moon Quest. In these lesson plans, students explore Moon legends and data by forming expert teams and sharing knowledge.
g Imagining – ET is coming to your living room in “Extraterrestrial,” and no one is being abducted. Over the past several months, a top-notch group of American and British scientists teamed up with Blue Wave Productions, Ltd. (for the National Geographic) to imagine what ET is like on other worlds. It’s all based upon our scientific understanding of life, stars and planetary systems. When filmed, Dr. Michael Meyer was NASA’s astrobiology program scientist, and now serves as NASA Headquarters Mars Program Scientist; Dr. Seth Shostak is a senior astronomer here at the SETI Institute; Dr. Chris McKay is a leading Mars researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Laurance Doyle conducts research on animal communication, and planetary systems around binary stars at SETI Institute and is the lead scientists at PlanetQuest, Inc. a new non-profit that will engage the public in finding extrasolar planets. Dr. Simon Conway Morris is a world-leader in evolutionary biology at Cambridge University in England….and the list goes on. These are serious and accomplished scientists--legitimate guys applying everything they know about stars, planetary systems, planetary evolution, and most especially, the evolution of life, to speculate on what life might be like on other worlds. See article.
g Aftermath – Should we really expect extraterrestrials to be sympathetic to our pleas to be altruistic because of the symbolic kinship we might share with them? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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