Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Gamma-ray burst afterglow, changing face of Mars and ET messenger probes

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 - An Italian team of astronomers has observed the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst that is the farthest known ever. With a measured redshift of 6.3, the light from this very remote astronomical source has taken 12,700 million years to reach us. It is thus seen when the universe was less than 900 million years old, or less than 7 percent its present age. See article.
g Abodes - New gullies that did not exist in mid-2002 have appeared on a Martian sand dune. That's just one of the surprising discoveries that have resulted from the extended life of NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, which this month began its ninth year in orbit around Mars. Boulders tumbling down a Martian slope left tracks that weren't there two years ago. New impact craters formed since the 1970s suggest changes to age-estimating models. And for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars' south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress. See article. For more, see “Mars: A history of false impressions”.
g Life - One of the remaining challenges for evolutionary developmental studies of mammals, whose evolution is best known from their teeth, is how their tooth shape is altered during development. Researchers of the University of Helsinki together with their Japanese colleagues from the University of Kioto now propose a 'balance of induction' mechanism directing the placement of tooth shape features called cusps. See articles. For related story about teeth, see “Nuclear Tests Leave Mark in Teeth, Reveal Age”.
g Intelligence - Scientists have now found physiological reasons why you can become forgetful or, even worse, rude as you age. See article.
g Message - How might we detect an extraterrestrial messenger probe already in the solar system? See article. Note: This article is from 1983.
g Cosmicus - Jack Farmer of Arizona State University is an astrobiologist whose attention is often focused on Mars. Farmer is a longtime member of a community of scientists working to understand both the geologic history of Mars and the planet's potential to support life. At the recent Earth System Processes II conference, Farmer gave a talk on the current state of understanding about Mars: what we know and what we'd like to know. In this, the third and final part of a three-part series, he outlines the options for future Mars exploration. See article.
g Learning - Each time the effort to introduce creationism into classrooms starts up again, so does legislation aimed against evolution. Learn about the rash of recent cases, plus a look at historically pertinent court cases. See article.
g Imagining - Book alert: "Extraterrestrials, Where Are They?" by Ben Zuckerman and Michael H. Hart (ed.) offers a critical analysis by leading experts in a range of sciences, of the plausibility that other intelligent life forms do exists. Exploration of the solar system, and observations with telescopes that probe deep space, have come up empty-handed in searches for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Many experts in the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry and physics now argue that the evidence points to the conclusion that technological civilizations are rare. After 10 billion years and among hundreds of billions of stars, we may well possess the most advanced brains in the Milky Way. This second edition elucidates many new aspects of research on extraterrestrial intelligence life, specifically biological considerations of the question. See reviews.
g Aftermath - Here’s an intriguing paper published earlier this year and translated from German for “Futurological Reflections on the Confrontation of Mankind with an Extraterrestrial Civilization”.

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