Sunday, October 02, 2005

Demise of a solar system, oxygen benefits mammals and ‘Contact, Incorporated’

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 - Astronomers have glimpsed dusty debris around an essentially dead star where gravity and radiation should have long ago removed any sign of dust. The discovery might provide insights into our own solar system's eventual demise several billion years from now. See article.
g Abodes - An unusual meteorite that fell onto a frozen Canadian lake five years ago has helped scientists discover some solar system secrets. See article.
g Life - Mammals, once tiny creatures scampering on the forest floor, grew larger as the amount of oxygen in the air increased over millions of years, a new study says. See article.
g Intelligence - One teenager likes to snowboard off a cliff. Another prefers to read a book and wouldn't think of trading places. Why these differences exist is a mystery, but for the first time researchers have identified a possible genetic explanation behind risk-seeking behavior. See article.
g Message - What if we examined how to communicate with extraterrestrials from a telecommunication engineer’s point of view? That’s the approach of Brian McConnell’s book, “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations.” Though the book has been out a few years now, it’s still worth a read if you haven’t already delved into it. For more about the book and an interview with McConnell, see article.
g Cosmicus - Earlier this month, a group of scientists and engineers converged in the Arizona desert near Meteor Crater to "practice" for future human missions to the moon and Mars. This year's experiments focused on interaction between space-suited "astronauts" and a very sophisticated rover named SCOUT. See article.
g Learning - Intelligent design is belief posing as theory. See article.
g Imagining - A complaint lodged again and again against science fiction aliens is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look at least similar (though not identical) to humans? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in The Science of Aliens. Though the book is a few years old, it’s still worth reading. Here’s a review of it and an interview with the author.
g Aftermath - Here’s a hidden gem about alien contact: the science fiction story “Contact, Incorporated,” about a private company that Earth’s government hires to make first contact with extraterrestrials. It’s from 1950 and appears in the seminal classic, “The Classic Book of Science Fiction,” edited by Groff Conklin (your library ought to have this volume). Despite being more than a half-century old, it remains an intriguing examination of how to communicate with aliens.

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