Thursday, August 25, 2005

Star hot spots, New Mexico spaceport and women as aliens in science fiction

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 - Thanks to data from ESA’s XMM-Newton spacecraft, European astronomers for the first time have observed rotating “hot spots” on the surfaces of three nearby neutron stars. See article.
g Abodes - A number of hypotheses have been used to explain how free oxygen first accumulated in Earth's atmosphere some 2.4 billion years ago, but a full understanding has proven elusive. Now a new model offers plausible scenarios for how oxygen came to dominate the atmosphere, and why it took at least 300 million years after bacterial photosynthesis started producing oxygen in large quantities. See article.
g Life - Our world may hold clues to the existence of life on other planets, writes astrobiologist Paul Davies. See article.
g Intelligence - Empathy allows us to feel the emotions of others, to identify and understand their feelings and motives and see things from their perspective. How we generate empathy remains a subject of intense debate in cognitive science. Some scientists now believe they may have finally discovered its root. We're all essentially mind readers, they say. See article.
g Message - Here’s a quick, easy to understand primer to SETI’s radio searches and the Fermi Paradox.
g Cosmicus - The first official meeting of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority met in Las Cruces last week to begin work establishing the Southwest Regional Spaceport in New Mexico as a major departure site for commercial space launches, including proposed passenger-carrying rockets offering suborbital and orbital treks. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of classroom activities, courtesy of the Discovery channel: “Destination Mars.” In these activities, students learn: that while Mars is just a stone’s throw across the solar system, a manned mission there is still just a dream; for such a mission to become a reality, we would need, among other things, a means of transportation that would allow us to move over the surface of the planet; and both the surface and the surrounding space of the planet Mars have characteristics that challenge existing technologies to create such a means of transportation. See activities.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting critical examination of science fiction aliens that’s worth reading: Robin Roberts’ “A new species: gender and science in science fiction” (1993) an analysis of women as aliens in SF.
g Aftermath The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See article.

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