Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Star Darwinism, Australian extinctions and ‘Rendezvous with Rama’

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 - When stars are born on the same cosmic block, the principle of survival of the fittest rules like nowhere else in the universe, a study suggests. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Abodes - Chandra X-ray Observatory images reveal that the rings of Saturn sparkle in X-rays. The likely source for this radiation is the fluorescence caused by solar X-rays striking oxygen atoms in the water molecules that comprise most of the icy rings. See article. For related story, see “Icy scars of Tethys”.
g Life - A newfound deep-sea relative of the jellyfish flashes glowing red lights on twitching, stinging tentacles to lure fish to their deaths more than a mile below the surface. See article.
g Intelligence - Massive extinctions of animals and the arrival of the first humans in ancient Australia may be linked, according to scientists at the Carnegie Institution, University of Colorado, Australian National University and Bates College. The extinctions occurred 45,000-55,000 years ago. The researchers traced evidence of diet and the environment contained in ancient eggshells and wombat teeth over the last 140,000 years to reconstruct what happened. The remains showed evidence of a rapid change of diet at the time of the extinctions. The researchers believe that massive fires set by the first humans may have altered the ecosystem of shrubs, trees, and grasses to the fire-adapted desert-scrub of today. The work is published in the July 8 issue of Science. See article.
g Message - Book alert: In “Is Anyone Out There?,” by Frank Drake, Dava Sobel, University of California astronomy and astrophysics professor Drake, aided by science journalist Sobel, responds to the title's classic question with an account of his career-long quest to gamer hard scientific data that might point to some answers. One of America's pioneer radio astronomers, Drake provides firsthand descriptions of breakthrough moments in the past 30 years of astrophysics - no encounters of any kind, just straightforward astrophysics with inconclusive experimental results. Drake's medium is science, his theory technical and his slightly anthropocentric conclusions more modest than those of the average UFO abductee. See article.
g Cosmicus - A team of Northwestern University scientists turned to chemistry and developed a new method that can routinely and cheaply produce nanowires with gaps as small as five nanometers wide - a feat that is unattainable using conventional lithographic techniques. What effect might this have on space exploration? See article.
g Learning -Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Space Seeds,” which examines gardening in space. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” (1973) in which a huge ship bypasses Earth.
g Aftermath - How might interested parties envisage the design of a human team to prepare for an encounter with aliens — and improve the operational guidelines for that eventuality? See article.

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