Friday, July 29, 2005

Tenth planet discovered, life around M class stars and clichéd alien vocabularies

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 - After two and a half days of discussion, the consensus of the more than 30 scientists attending a July SETI Institute workshop was that we could not rule out habitable planets orbiting M dwarfs but that a number of issues needed to be addressed. See article.
g Abodes - NASA is announcing the discovery of a tenth planet orbiting our Sun. Michael Brown, associate professor of planetary astronomy, at California Institute of Technology says the planet is 1.5 times larger than Pluto and is the most distant known object in the solar system at 97 times further from than the Sun than the Earth. It is bright enough to be seen in amateur telescopes. See article.
g Life - Saving large mammals such as elephants and rhino from extinction could be made more effective by focusing efforts on individual species as well as their habitats, a new report says. See article.
g Intelligence - A major social-cognitive achievement of young children is the understanding that other people act on the basis of their own representations of reality rather than on the basis of reality itself. Developmental psychologists have explored the refinement of mental-state reasoning in children, typically by measuring their ability to pass false-belief tasks, such as the example above. Yet previous research has only been conducted in Western cultures, where children pass such tests around the age of 5. New research reveals that children reach this false-belief milestone at about the same age the world over. See article.
g Message - Book alert: Scour your used bookstore shelves for “Life Beyond Earth,” by Timothy Ferris. Rock-solid science writer Ferris has covered this ground before. In the two-hour PBS documentary that he wrote and narrated - which shares the title, text, and many of the images of this generously illustrated book - Ferris tackles two age-old questions about the potentially universal nature of life: Are we alone, and, if not, is anybody listening? See review.
g Cosmicus - Canada's MOST telescope, no larger than a suitcase, has been dubbed "the humble space telescope." But despite its diminutive size, it has already begun to make a giant contribution to our understanding of extrasolar planets. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Our Sun has Spots.” In this lesson students learn about sunspots and the solar cycle by making Sunspot Cootie Catchers, coloring solar butterflies and more. See article.
g Imagining - Ever wondered how all those traditional space-opera and epic-fantasy races - the pig-faced warriors, the smug bumheads, and all the rest - came up with their wonderfully clichéd alien vocabularies? It's not difficult; once you've mastered these basic rules, you'll be able to produce names and phrases just as stereotypical as theirs. See article.
g Aftermath - What affect would the discovery of alien life have on the story-telling genre that inspires the search for it — science fiction? See article.

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