Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Starquake, triple-star system planet and Apollo 11 anniversary

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 - The biggest starquake ever recorded resulted in oscillations in the X-ray emission from the shaking neutron star. Astronomers hope these oscillations will crack the mystery of what neutron stars are made of. See article.
g Abodes - A NASA-funded astronomer has discovered a world where the sun sets over the horizon, followed by a second sun and then a third. The new planet, called HD 188753 Ab, is the first known to reside in a classic triple-star system. See article.
g Life - Life thrives in all sorts of hostile environments, including the extreme salinity of the Dead Sea. A team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science has uncovered a strategy that helps molecules essential to life, such as proteins, have adapted to function in extreme environments. See article.
g Intelligence - When we listen to speech, our brain processes different information concerning vowels and consonants. In fact, it is mostly consonant sounds that guide us to identify words within the flow of speech, according to a recent study by researchers of the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati in Trieste and other institutes. See article.
g Message - The two Voyager deep-space probes each hold gold-plated copper discs - called the "Golden Record" - to be played on a record player (supplied on board) and containing a snapshot of information from Earth. Assuming the aliens can assemble the player and figure out the instructions, they're in for quite a treat: a deep-space personal ad for the entire human race, assembled under the direction of Carl Sagan. But while the first couple of plaques are neat - they deal with basic number systems and offer cryptic hieroglyphic instructions on how to play the records - the remainder of the album is pretty poor, a Yale graduate student says. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - One of the defining moments of the 20th century was mankind's voyage to the moon. This video selection allows you to relive the mission of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on Apollo 11. See article.
g Learning -A new section of the Journal of Geophysical Research will focus on biogeosciences of the Earth system in the past, present and future and its applicability to planetary studies. See article.
g Imagining - Book alert: Of course, quality science fiction is really less about aliens than the human condition. That’s why you ought to scour some used bookstores for this rare edition: “Star Trek on the Brain: Alien Minds, Human Minds,” by Robert Sekuler and Randolph Blake. An educational and entertaining nonfiction work that uses Star Trek to explain the workings of the human mind, the authors (both psychology professors) have put together an excellent and highly readable neurology primer. Their two-pronged task is to give a Star Trek example and then link it to contemporary science of the nervous system. Do you want to better understand emotions, their cultural implications and universal expressions? Then this is the book. See reviews.
g Aftermath - It was not suggested outside of science fiction — and there only after the 1890s — that extraterrestrials might come to Earth, except for a few believers in interplanetary spirit travel by mortals (an idea now well established among occultists). Among these was the well-known Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, who, in what was perhaps the earliest conception of ETs as “gods from outer space,” reasoned that since no beings from other worlds have used their advanced science to abolish suffering on Earth, “Is there not reason to fear that we are for ever alone in the universe, and that no other world has ever been more intelligent or better than our own?” But this, the first serious “Where are they?” argument, was not known to the general public and in any case would not have carried weight, since it depended on the concept of disembodied spirits. Physical contact between worlds was not thought possible outside of fiction. See article.

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