Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Early universe, ancient ozone holes and the Torino Scale

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 - Designing and constructing a telescope that can capture faint particles of light from the early periods of the universe has its share of obstacles. One challenge was to design lightweight mirrors durable enough to withstand extreme cold. See article.
g Abodes - British researchers have hit on a clever way to search for ancient ozone holes and their relationship to mass extinctions: measure the remains of ultraviolet-B absorbing pigments ancient plants left in their fossilized spores and pollen. Since the 1960s, spores from living land plants have shown a three-fold increase in the concentration of UV-B absorbing pigments to protect themselves against a 14 percent decrease in stratospheric ozone. See article.
g Life - A recent finding by biologists at the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution added important evidence to the radical conclusion that a group of diminutive aquatic animals called bdelloid rotifers have evolved for tens of millions of years without sexual reproduction, in apparent violation of the rule that abandonment of sexual reproduction is a biological dead end. Now, MBL scientists are beginning to understand just what's different about these creatures' DNA that has enabled them to succeed where other asexual species have failed. See article.
g Intelligence - Like stories about communicating with aliens? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Sheri Tepper’s “Long Silence” (1987), about gigantic crystals that converse through music.
g Message - The privatization of SETI has resulted in global participation in signal detection and analysis activities by a wide range of non-professionals. The SETI community welcomes this grass-roots support, every bit as much as the optical observing community honors the significant scientific contributions of the world's amateur astronomers. However, as SETI observatories spring up on college campuses and in home gardens worldwide, a need emerges for establishing rigorous signal verification protocols and stringent standards of proof. See article. Note: This article from 1999.
g Cosmicus - Research published in the journal Space Weather warns that massive gaps in our understanding and monitoring of space weather will effectively block U.S. plans for a manned mars space mission. The study, led by a University of Warwick researcher, draws on work that she and colleagues carried out for the European Space Agency on radiation hazards and space weather. See article.
g Learning - There are some great teacher resources on space biology here. The modules cover such topics as “Life in the Universe,” “Radiation Biology” and “Life in Space Environments.” Each module includes an introduction, readings and references, teaching resources and research and applications.
g Imagining - During the past several years, evolutionary biologists have proved that the disparate creatures of our planet are, at a fundamental genetic level, very similar to one another. The genes that differentiate the top and the bottom of a bug, for instance, are the same ones that differentiate our fronts from our backs. According to the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, this new understanding is among "the most stunning evolutionary discoveries of the decade," and is clearly "a dominant theme in evolution." The same law applies, it appears, to the extraterrestrial creatures that come out of Hollywood. See article. Note: This article is from 1997.
g Aftermath How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See article.

Get your SF book manuscript edited

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

No comments: