Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Movies form the edge of spacetime, largest solid planetary core and human genome evolution

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 - Here’s a neat collection of downloadable movies, “Movies from the Edge of Spacetime,” that show such phenomenon as wormholes and black holes. See article.
g Abodes - A strange newfound planet as massive as Saturn appears to have the largest solid core known, providing an important clue to how some giant planets might form and setting off a controversy over how it formed. See article.
g Life - A track from a three-toed dinosaur believed to be about 70 million years old has been discovered in Denali National Park, the first evidence that the animals roamed there, scientists said. See article.
g Intelligence - A group of LSU researchers, led by biological sciences Professor Mark Batzer, have unraveled the details of a 25-million-year-old evolutionary process in the human genome. Their study focused on the origin and spread of transposable elements in the genome, many of which are known to be related to certain genetic disorders, such as hemophilia. "Effectively, we've devised a theory that allows us to explain the origin of about half of all of the human genome," Batzer said. See article.
g Message - The SETI League, Inc. launched its Project Argus all-sky survey in April 1996, with the ambitious goal of real-time all-sky coverage. This SETI experiment is unique in that it employs the talents and energies of thousands of dedicated amateur radio astronomers worldwide. In its first four years, Project Argus has grown from five small prototype radio telescopes to more than one hundred operational stations, with hundreds more under construction. The project is still decades away from its projected 5,000 stations able to see in all directions at once. Nevertheless, much has been learned about how to build radio telescopes inexpensively, operate them with the utmost of professionalism, and interpret received data with scientific rigor. See article.
g Cosmicus - Is fictional starship Captain James T. Kirk a shining example of homo cosmicus –the term Konstantin Tsiolkovsky used to describe humanity when it becomes a space-faring civilization? See my previously published column.
g Learning -Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Mushing with Microbes.” In this lesson students read an amusing story about Dr. Tony Phillips and his sled dog team as they attempt to retrieve microbe samples from an extreme mountain peak. Students can hone their letter-writing skills by composing a letter to Dr. Phillips offering advice and support. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology and cultures? Among the most influential was H.G. Wells’ “First Men in the Moon” (1901). You can read the entire novel online.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. Jean Heidmann, chief astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation--all of it grounded in real science--is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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