Monday, August 22, 2005

An Earth-like Venus, moondust and galactic space corps

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 Hubble Space Telescope has spotted of a collection of galaxies with more variety than a candy store. See article.
g Abodes - The hellish climate of Venus may have arisen far more recently than previously supposed, suggests new research. If so, pleasant Earth-like conditions probably persisted for 2 billion years after the planet's birth - plenty of time for life to have developed. See article.
g Life - Questions about the existence of life in outer space may have a surprisingly close-to-home answer, according to one University of Houston professor. Understanding how life evolved on Earth is important in obtaining clues as to where else in the universe one might find life and what it might be like, said George E. Fox, a UH professor of biology and biochemistry. Fox is finishing work on a three-year research grant from NASA's Exobiology Program that seeks to understand life's origin. See article.
g Intelligence - A person's prior knowledge of the geometry of faces affects his or her ability to estimate distance and complete visually guided reaching tasks according to a study published in the June issue of Journal of Vision, an online, free access publication of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. See article.
g Message - "Where are they?" Physicist Enrico Fermi famously posed this question when asked about intelligent extraterrestrials. If such beings exist, why have we (presumably) not been contacted or visited? Fermi's Paradox, as it is now known, is more profound than it may appear. Calculations suggest that if our galaxy has even one extraterrestrial civilization with the interest and ability to colonize new star systems, such a civilization could spread far and wide in a period far shorter than the age of the galaxy. See article.
g Cosmicus - The new book "Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth" shows how the Apollo program changed the lives of the astronauts who walked on the Moon. This leap to another world also colored our perception of what it means to be stuck on Earth. See article.
g Learning -Do you have what it takes to keep a trio of astronauts healthy? Play Space Doctor and see if you can make it to Mars alive. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology/cultures? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Rebecca Ore’s “Becoming Alien” (1988) and “Being Alien” (1989), which chronicle the adventures of the first Earth cadet in the galactic space corps.
g Aftermath While formal principles have been adopted for the eventuality of detecting intelligent life in our galaxy, no such guidelines exist for the discovery of non-intelligent extraterrestrial life within the solar system. Current scientifically based planetary protection policies for solar system exploration address how to undertake exploration, but do not provide clear guidance on what to do if and when life is detected. Considering that Martian life could be detected under several different robotic and human exploration scenarios in the coming decades, it is appropriate to anticipate how detection of non-intelligent, microbial life could impact future exploration missions and activities, especially on Mars. See article.

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