Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Exploring inner Earth, Martian contamination and SETI protocols

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 - Scientists have found that a star that exploded in 1979 is as bright today in X-ray light as it was when it was discovered years ago, a surprise finding because such objects usually fade significantly after only a few months. See article.
g Abodes - The heart of our planet is largely a mystery because scientists can't go there or see what's inside. Geologists have just one tool, seismology, with which to probe the inner Earth. The contents of the tool bag just doubled. See article.
g Life - A new study in the August 2005 issue of The American Naturalist is the first to provide a theoretical model showing that the two central measures of biodiversity - the number of species in a system and the number of genetic variants within a specific species - respond similarly to changes in their environment. See article.
g Intelligence - Every few years scientists unearth the bones of humanity's forefathers. From Lucy to the Hobbits of Flores Island - we are gradually seeing building the puzzle of mankind's evolution. See article.
g Message - The Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts, or SETA, is about delineating between the artificial and the real. In the case of radio detection from other stellar systems, the artificial is what is labeled the real signal that intelligent communications are on-air. See article. Note: This article is a couple of years old.
g Cosmicus - During the decade ahead, NASA should develop and implement new methods and requirements to detect and eliminate microorganisms on robotic spacecraft sent to Mars to prevent possible contamination of the planet, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. If microbes aboard a spacecraft were to survive the trip to Mars and grow there, they could interfere with scientific investigations to detect any life that might be native to Mars. Existing techniques for cleaning spacecraft are outdated and typically eliminate only a fraction of microorganisms, said the committee that wrote the report. See article.
g Learning - Unclear how the celestial coordinate system, used by astronomers, works? Here’s a primer.
g Imagining - Quantum physics and biochemistry is real, hard as nails science, say many physicists and also, it appears, those who write SF books and screenplays. But, reproductive biologist Jack Cohen asks, “Is biology a science?” And what affect does the answer have on our ability to imagine and recognize extraterrestrial life? See article.
g Aftermath - Scientists such as the SETI Institute’s John Billingham and Jill Tarter have taken the lead in planning for the day we might receive a signal from life beyond Earth. Working with diplomats and space lawyers, they have helped develop protocols that guide the activities of SETI scientists who think they may have detected extraterrestrial intelligence. See article. Note: This story is a couple of years old.

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