Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Discovery reaches space, new state of matter and Martian methane

Welcome! First-time visitors may want to read the Jan. 1 entry to gain a better understanding of the blog's format.
g Stars -Physicists have created the state of matter thought to have filled the universe just a few microseconds after the big bang and found it to be different from what they were expecting. Instead of a gas, it is more like a liquid. Understanding why it is a liquid should take physicists a step closer to explaining the earliest moments of our universe. See article.
g Abodes - On Earth, methane is mostly produced by life. The recent detection of methane in the Martian atmosphere therefore has given rise to much speculation about the possibility for life on the Red Planet. In part two of this four-part series, the various ways nature produces methane are considered. See article.
g Life - Researchers have determined that a gene present in mouse cells limits the number of times that a cell can divide. The gene is involved in a process, called senescence, which is thought to ensure that aging cells do not pass on harmful mutations. See article.
g Intelligence - A casual remark by a teenage girl such as "She's so not cool" may be dismissed as typical teen talk. Young women, however, are leading changes in the way adolescents speak, according to a University of Toronto linguistics expert. See article.
g Message - The Earth is at the center of an expanding bubble of electromagnetic radiation. The bubble, expanding at the speed of light, contains all of the man-made electromagnetic transmissions of the earth - radio, TV, radar, and so on. In theory, an alien civilization could receive these signals, and form their opinion about the earth by analyzing them. To most people, it is quite discouraging to think that some alien civilization would form their opinion of Earth based upon our situation comedies. Upon a slightly deeper analysis, the conventional wisdom says, “Aliens might detect our TV signals, but at least they can't form their opinion of our civilization from our TV transmissions. Decoding the transmission is so much harder than detecting it that we don't need to worry about this.” But an editor of the book “SETI 2020” argues that this view considerably underestimates the technologies that aliens might employ. By looking at likely technical improvements - better receivers and feeds, bigger antenna, signal processing, and perhaps stellar focusing, any civilization that can detect our radiations might well be able to decode it as well. Thus aliens can form their impression of Earth from “I Love Lucy.” See article.
g Cosmicus - The Space shuttle Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 7:39 a.m. PT (1439 GMT) on the first space shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster. Follow the shuttle's mission at article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web site for kids: “Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?” In the program, kids get to search for ET — and learn some principles of science along the way. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies and environments? Scour your used bookstores for Stanley Weinbaum’s “The Best of ...” (1974). The volume contains some of first friendly aliens in science fiction.
g Aftermath - If, as “The X-Files'” Fox Mulder might say, "The truth is out there," then the researchers running the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program are likely to be the first ones to find it. On the other hand, there are numerous people who believe they've already been in contact with aliens. National Geographic's video ”Phantom Quest: The Search for Extraterrestrials” studies the claims of both groups, ultimately seeking to reveal precisely what an encounter with beings from another planet could mean for humanity. See article.

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