Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bioluminescent bacteria, evolving toward intelligence and NASA reorganization

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 - Common wisdom holds that we can never see a black hole because nothing can escape it - not even light. Fortunately, black holes aren't completely black. As gas is pulled into a black hole by its strong gravitational force, the gas heats up and radiates. That radiation can be used to illuminate the black hole and paint its profile. See article.
g Abodes - Mariners have long told of rare nighttime events in which the ocean glows intensely as far as the eye can see in all directions. See scientists suspect bioluminescent bacteria are behind the phenomenon. See article.
g Life - No good evidence exists that fossilized structures found in China and which some paleontologists claim are the earliest known rudimentary feathers were really feathers at all, a renowned ornithologist says. Instead, the fossilized patterns appear to be bits of decomposed skin and supporting tissues that just happen to resemble feathers to a modest degree. See article.
g Intelligence - Known as "the cocktail party problem," the ability of the brain's auditory processing centers to sort a babble of different sounds, like cocktail party chatter, into identifiable individual voices has long been a mystery. See article.
g Message - If we are not alone in the universe, why have we never picked up signals from an extraterrestrial civilization? Known as the Fermi paradox after physicist Enrico Fermi, who first posed the question, this long-standing puzzle remains one of the strongest arguments against the existence of intelligent aliens. But two physicists say they have come up with a solution. They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background noise. See article. Note: This article is from May 2003.
g Cosmicus - NASA's Kennedy Space Center has created four new offices in response to the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which aims to implement the nation's vision for space exploration. See article.
g Learning - The Genesis Project: One of the most hotly contested debates among astrobiologists is the feasibility and wisdom of modifying a planet's evolution, either by seeding weather modifications or by intervening to add life to an otherwise barren world. Just how difficult would such a project be? Learn by “doing” here!
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Harlan Ellison’s (ed.) “Medea: Harlan's World” (1985), a symposium on alien creation.
g Aftermath - While scientists argue over whether or not there are intelligent beings elsewhere in our galaxy, there is the one question which they all seem to overlook - or perhaps ignore - are they already here? In 1975, Michael Hart and Laurence Cox gave give an interesting analysis of this question in “An Explanation for the Absence of Extraterrestrials on Earth Now.” See article.

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