Saturday, July 16, 2005

Microflares, studying the mesosphere and jellyplants on Mars

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 - A great mystery about our own star is why its atmosphere is hotter than its surface. By studying microflares, solar physicists believe some of this energy is coming from the smaller but more frequent explosions on our typical dwarf star. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Abodes - A new research radar based in Antarctica is giving scientists the chance to study the highest layer of the Earth's atmosphere at the very edge of space. Using the new radar, scientists will be able to investigate climate change and explore the theory that while the lower atmosphere is warming, the upper atmosphere is cooling by as much as 1 degree centigrade each year. They also will be able to find out more about the complex waves, tides and other mechanisms that link this region - known as the mesosphere - to the lower regions of the atmosphere. See article.
g Life - Bacteria? Are astronomers looking through the wrong end of the telescope? "We're pioneering something here," said Woody Sullivan, a University of Washington radio astronomer and one of the lead creators of the UW's innovative NASA-funded program in astrobiology - the study of life in a cosmic context. "We've got to start thinking outside the typical disciplinary boundaries.” See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Intelligence - Intelligence brought to humans many gifts and consequences. One of them, self-awareness, allows us to interpret reality in a subjective way and to conceptualize our existence in comparison with other animals and other human beings. Self-realization also allowed pre-historic humans to develop strategies and to anticipate the future. Another one is the ability to produce symbols and abstractions, i.e., internal mental representations of reality, "thought inventions" and beliefs not grounded on reality. Language gave us the ability to communicate using an open system of sound symbols (words), therefore enabling us to pass these realizations, beliefs, inventions, understandings and knowledge to other humans, from generation to generation. All this produced three of the most distinctive characteristics of humankind: religion, art and culture. See article.
g Message - Book alert: Sixteen scientists (including Philip Morrison, Carl Sagan, Freeman Dyson, and Nobel laureate Melvin Calvin) discuss their work, their lives and this new field of science in “SETI Pioneers: Scientists Talk About Their Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” by David W. Swift. Their stories, collected in interviews by sociologist Swift (University of Hawaii) show how the image of a new research field can change over time from lunatic fringe to scientific respectability. See reviews.
g Cosmicus - What effect will surface gravity have on interstellar settlement? See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Jellyplants on Mars.” Scentists are creating a new breed of glowing plants - part mustard and part jellyfish - to help humans explore Mars. In this lesson, students learn about the plants and bioregeneration. See activity.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s “The Mote in God's Eye” (1974), a classic hard science fiction novel. See reviews.
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book “The SETI Factor,” by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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