Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Galactic downsizing, convecting mantle and Allen Telescope Array

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 - A comprehensive survey of more than 4,000 elliptical and lenticular galaxies in 93 nearby galaxy clusters has found a curious case of galactic "downsizing." See article.
g Abodes - Researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory recently resolved a long-standing contradiction about the workings of the deep Earth. For years, many geochemists have argued that parts of the deep mantle remain unchanged since the formation of the Earth, whereas many geophysicists and geodynamicists have held that the entire mantle has been convecting (moving and mixing) over geological time. See article.
g Life - "Which 5 historical figures would you invite to dinner, and how would you seat them?" In mock interview format, today's feature in this "Dinner With..." series, excerpts answers from Charles Darwin's “Origin of Species,” as an initial historical 'guest' to sit down and discuss how life might have originated and evolved. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Intelligence - A group of Montreal researchers has discovered that GCN2, a protein in cells that inhibits the conversion of new information into long-term memory, may be a master regulator of the switch from short-term to long-term memory. Their paper, “Translational control of hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory by the eIF2a kinase GCN2,” published in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature, provides the first genetic evidence that protein synthesis is critical for the regulation of memory formation. See article.
g Message - As SETI researchers are quick and keen to point out, the Allen Telescope Array, currently under construction about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, is the first professional radio telescope designed from the get-go to speedily search for extraterrestrial signals. When completed, it will comprise 350 antennas, spread over roughly 150 acres of lava-riven real estate. See article.
g Cosmicus - Astrosociology is a newly identified subfield that has historical roots going back half a century. The new tag also encompasses a variety of phenomena, ranging from the micro to the macro, from the social interactions of small human groups operating in the extreme environment of space, to the operations and activities of mission control/mission support teams on Earth, to the organizational challenges of multinational and transnational space projects, to the political-economic issues of multiyear funding continuity, and strategic partnerships between government agencies and private enterprises, to the relationship of the space community to the larger society of which it is a subset. See article.
g Learning - Unfortunately, the controversy over the theory of evolution continues even as science offers all people a way to know about the natural world and how it works. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about efforts to communicate with alien? Then be sure to read Fred Hoyle’s “A for Andromeda” (1962). See review.
g Aftermath - Reactions to the announcement that scientists had found evidence for primitive life in a meteorite from Mars have been intense. Some concerned the scientific evidence, some the implications of extraterrestrial life, especially if intelligent. Underlying these reactions are assumptions, or beliefs, which often have a religious grounding. The two divergent beliefs, for and against the plurality of life in the universe, are examined historically and through religious traditions, particularly the Judeo-Christian. This examination guides the formulation of the right relation between science and religion as one that respects the autonomy of each discipline, yet allows for each to be open to the discoveries of the other. Based on this relationship, perspectives from scientific exploration are developed that can help individuals to respect and cope with the new phenomena that science brings, whether these imply that we might be alone in the universe or co-creatures of God with the ancient Martians. See article.

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