Saturday, June 04, 2005

Amalthea’s shake-up, liquid water’s early appearance and unimaginative conceptions of aliens

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 – Scientists studying data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft have found that Jupiter's moon Amalthea is a pile of icy rubble less dense than water. Scientists expected moons closer to the planet to be rocky and not icy. The finding shakes up long-held theories of how moons form around giant planets. See article.
g Abodes – Using a newly developed thermometer made of zircon, researchers have found evidence that environmental conditions on early Earth, within 200 million years of the solar system's formation, were characterized by liquid-water oceans and continental crust similar to those of the present day. See article.
g Life – In a stunning example of evolution at work, scientists have now found that changes in a single gene can produce major changes in the skeletal armor of fish living in the wild. See article.
g Intelligence – Using a newly released method to analyze functional magnetic resonance imaging, Northwestern University researchers have demonstrated that the interconnections between different parts of the brain are dynamic and not static. This and other findings answer longstanding debates about how brain networks operate to solve different cognitive tasks. See article.
g Message – Should we modify the Drake Equation to account for civilizations which actually engage in deliberate interstellar transmission? See article.
g Cosmicus – As the dawn breaks on the 21st Century, already the social and political tides that shaped the world of the 20th Century move across the globe, repositioning political alignments, opening some borders while closing others. If the last one hundred years were the American Century, and, as some believe, the United States now stands at the apex of its political, economic and military power, it can be argued that — as history dictates — a fall is sure to follow. How and when is yet to be seen, but already two players wait in the wings, redefining their roles on the world stage and preparing for their close-ups. But while the European Union expands and forges its own identity in a slow bureaucratic manner, making sure not to ruffle feathers on this side of the Atlantic, China races to embrace its destiny as a global player to be reckoned with. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the realm of space exploration. See aticle.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity: Students each become an astronaut who has traveled to a planet in our solar system and made first contact with an alien race. Upon returning home, they must present their discovery. Students must learn about what strange pathways of evolution could have produced a creature so bizarre and miraculous as they explain what they found, what the alien is like and how it survives. See article.
g Imagining – For anyone who has watched the recent incarnations of Star Trek, one question must present itself: do the majority of alien beings in the cosmos really just look like Earthlings, only with bonier faces or pointier ears? Is that it? Because, aside from the occasional intangible space entity, most "way-out" life forms are remarkably similar to us. Even the weirder images of the little green (or grey) aliens in popular culture are pretty unimaginative. Two arms? Check. Two legs? Check. A head, some eyes, an upright posture? Yes, please. This is not the cutting edge of science fiction, more our own narcissistic reflection dropping in via spacecraft. Surely we can aspire to thinking something a little more and alien? See article.
g Aftermath – How would humans react the day after ET landed? A nationwide survey by the Roper Organization in 1999 found that the following: “ out of four Americans think most people would “totally freak out and panic” if such evidence were confirmed. See article.

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