Monday, October 10, 2005

Life on a frozen world, first installment of Allen Telescope Array and a thousand years from now

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 - Jessica Sunshine is the Deep Impact mission scientist responsible for the onboard infrared spectrometer. In the second half of this two-part interview, she discusses whether Deep Impact has altered our ideas of how comets are formed and how important they've been in Earth's history. See article.
g Abodes - Living microbes found in what could be 1 million-year-old ice on a remote Arctic island support the theory that the frozen planet Mars could also sustain life, researchers say. See article. For related story, see “Life in Ice”.
g Life - The tundra muskox, one of the few large northern mammals to have survived to the present day, saw its genetic diversity decrease greatly at the end of the Pleistocene period, around 10,000 years ago. A study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology reveals that the muskox (Ovibus moschatus) was genetically much more diverse before the Pleistocene/Holocene transition, the period that witnessed the extinction of other great mammals such as the mammoth. See article.
g Intelligence - Do you always get what you ask for? A new study finds that when you don't, you might not even notice the difference. See article.
g Message - In the patchwork of dry, cow-fouled ranch lands 250 miles northeast of San Francisco, an unusual crop is poking above the dusty shrubbery. Three-dozen metal mushrooms have sprouted near the modest village of Hat Creek, and are turning their aluminum eyes skyward. These antennas, 20 feet in diameter and the height of a football goal post, are the vanguard of an eventual herd of 350 dishes, sprinkled over more than a half-mile of dirt and lava. They are the first installment of the Allen Telescope Array. See article.
g Cosmicus - Russia on Friday test-launched a collapsible mini-spacecraft, designed to carry cargo from the international space station to Earth, on a sea-based ballistic missile, a Russian space design bureau said. See article.
g Learning - Teachers will experience the weightlessness of space in a weekend of parabolic flights from Kennedy Space Center during a pilot program that could bring commercial flights to the shuttle landing strip. See article.
g Imagining - Among the earliest Star Trek alien races that were exact duplicates of homo sapiens were the Beta III humanoids (for picture, click here and then on “Spock and Kirk fire”; look for orange robed man). But the chance of extraterrestrials looking exactly like us is nil. Why? See article for the answer. A note here: The Beta III humanoids show up fairly late in Star Trek’s very first season; until that episode, the series was quite conscious of at least making humanoid aliens different in shape and color — or at least producing an excuse, such as the aliens “assumed” human form for some nefarious purpose. With this race, however, exact duplication of Homo sapiens becomes commonplace in the show.
g Aftermath - As we begin the new millennium, large elements of both the scientific and lay communities are sensitive to the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. Whereas it is sensible to be cautious as to when unmistakable evidence of ETI will be acquired, some searchers expect this discovery to occur in the near future. From the perspective of our descendants 1,000 years hence, initial contact will be part of history and their attention will be directed somewhere else. At that time, any difficulties or dislocations that occurred during first contact will be long past. Interacting with other civilizations will be no more unusual than interacting with human colonies that will be sprinkled throughout our solar system. One thousand years from now people will be quite different than they are today. Human interaction with ETI could account for only some of these differences. See article.

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