Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mantle plume roots, message in a bottle and contact protocols

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 – An international team of astrophysicists, led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, has presented the largest simulation of the universe and an accurate theoretical model for the growth of galaxies and supermassive black holes. See article.
g Abodes – Deep within Earth, researchers are finding hints of exotic materials and behaviors unrivaled anywhere else on the planet. Now a team of researchers, which includes two seismologists from Arizona State University, have detected a relatively small and isolated patch of exotic material, called an ultra low velocity zone, that may in fact be a "root" for mantle plumes that connect Earth's hot and tumultuous core and its surface. See article.
g Life – The genomic DNA sequencing of an extinct Pleistocene cave bear species - the kind of stuff once reserved for science fiction - has been logged into scientific literature thanks to investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. The study, published in the June 2 online edition of the journal Science, has set the research community's sights on traveling back in time through the vehicle of DNA sequencing to reveal the story of other extinct species - including our nearest relatives, the Neanderthals. See article.
g Intelligence – We each have that one flavor of jelly bean - the one that we can consume endlessly in one sitting. Yet, there is another flavor that we eject from our mouths as soon as we taste it. Still, there are flavors that don't seem to illicit any significant responses whatsoever. Taken separately, eating jelly beans can be a very simple story: good, bad or indifferent. However, when we combine the three experiences into one, how do we rate the overall taste experience? See article.
g Message – A new study suggests it is more energy efficient to communicate across interstellar space by sending physical material — a sort of message in a bottle — than beams of electromagnetic radiation. Solid matter can hold more information and journey farther than radio waves, which disperse as they travel. See article.
g Cosmicus – The hype for the “perfect site” for a first moonbase at the Moon’s south pole (Mt. Malapert) and more recently for a rival north polar site, continues to get good press, and to all appearances, just about everyone is on the bandwagon. But the president of the Lunar Reclamation Society has serious reservations — and says there are others who share them, but find it difficult or unpromising to buck the trend. See article.
g Learning – For those new to astrobiology, offers an “Astrobiology FAQ” that’s a fairly good primer.
g Imagining – Most biologists have concluded that the proponents of intelligent design display either ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of evolutionary science. Yet their proposals are getting a hearing in some political and educational circles and are have been the subject of a debate within several state and local boards of education. Natural History magazine presents brief position statements by three leading proponents of the intelligent design theory, along with three responses. The section concludes with an overview of the intelligent-design movement by a philosopher and cultural historian who has monitored its history for more than a decade. Note: The series is from 2002.
g Aftermath – Scientists such as the SETI Institute’s John Billingham and Jill Tarter have taken the lead in planning for the day we might receive a signal from life beyond Earth. Working with diplomats and space lawyers, they have helped develop protocols that guide the activities of SETI scientists who think they may have detected extraterrestrial intelligence. See article. Note: This story is a couple of years old.

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