Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Useless DNA fragments, conformist chimps and ‘Indians and Other Aliens’

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 - When the Allen Telescope Array comes online in a few years, its thousand-fold better radio search capabilities will soon exhaust previously cataloged stars with potentially habitable planets. So Margaret Turnbull and Jill Tarter have a new list, called HabCat: A Catalog of Nearby Habitable Stellar Systems. See article. Note: This article is from April 2003.
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 - One of the key motivations for revisiting the probability of life elsewhere in the universe is the surprising proclivity of life in hostile places on Earth. New findings suggest that modern organisms may possess useless DNA fragments today that once saved their ancestors’ lives in extreme environments. See article.
g Intelligence - Chimpanzees want to be just like their friends, at least when it comes to getting food. The social conformity displayed in a new study is a trait previously seen only in humans. See article.
g Message - Here’s an article in which Dave DeBoer, project engineer for the Allen Telescope Array, discusses what the unique telescope will offer. The development of the Allen Telescope Array is marked by many innovations crafted with the express purpose of building a world-class state-of-the-art astronomical facility at a fraction of the price of existing radio telescopes. See article. Note: This article is from October 2003.
g Cosmicus - Mission controllers cross their fingers whenever the Sun is stormy and their spacecraft have to fly over the South Atlantic. There, even satellites in low orbits suffer many hits by atomic bullets from the Sun. Troublesome faults occur in electronic systems and astronauts see flashes in their eyes. See article.
g Learning - An excellent op-ed column appeared in Sunday’s Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal-Gazette about why biology classes shouldn’t teach intelligent design. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting critical examination of science fiction aliens that’s worth reading: Christin Morris’ "Indians and Other Aliens: A Native American View of Science Fiction." It appeared in “Extrapolation 20” (1979).
g Aftermath Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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