Sunday, September 04, 2005

Supernova 2005cs, gambling monkeys and ‘The Only Good Alien is a Dead Alien’

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 - Amidst the glitter of billions of stars in the majestic spiral galaxy called the Whirlpool, a massive star abruptly ends its life in a brilliant flash of light. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped images of the exploding star, called supernova 2005cs, 12 days after its discovery. See article.
g Abodes - The current mean temperature on the equator of Mars is a blustery -69 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists have long thought that the Red Planet was once temperate enough for water to have existed on the surface and perhaps for life to have evolved there. But a new study by MIT and Caltech scientists gives this idea the cold shoulder. 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 - When given a choice between steady rewards and the chance for more, monkeys will gamble, a new study found. See article.
g Message - A recent study suggests it is more energy efficient to communicate across interstellar space by sending physical material — a sort of message in a bottle — than beams of electromagnetic radiation. Solid matter can hold more information and journey farther than radio waves, which disperse as they travel. See article.
g Cosmicus - As expected, NASA managers announced the next space shuttle flight will be delayed until at least next March to give engineers time to fix the external tank foam insulation problems that marred shuttle Discovery's launch last month. See article.
g Learning - Are we alone? Are humans unique in the universe, or is our existence the natural outcome of universal processes that produced complex life on Earth and elsewhere? As we observe the universe beyond Earth, we find that we are fundamentally a part of it. To understand the relationship of humanity to stardust requires understanding evolution in its broadest sense. See article. Note: This article on teaching evolution in schools is from 2001.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting critical examination of science fiction aliens that’s worth reading: Gregory M. Pfitzer’s "The Only Good Alien Is a Dead Alien: Science Fiction and the Metaphysics of Indian-Hating on the High Frontier" in “Journal of American Culture” (Spring 1995).
g Aftermath - In a cross-cultural study conducted several years ago, to scientists looked at the attitudes of college students towards the possibility that extraterrestrial life might exist, and if it does, what it might be like for people to learn that it exists. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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