Monday, October 03, 2005

Martian gravity, chattering bacteria and university offers astrobiology degree

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 - Two of NASA's Great Observatories, the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, have teamed up to "weigh" the stars in several distant galaxies. One of these galaxies, among the most distant ever seen, appears to be unusually massive and mature for its place in the young universe. See article.
g Abodes - The Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program is the first ever mission to study the effects of Martian gravity on mammals, a fundamental step moving humans out beyond low Earth orbit to the red planet. See article.
g Life - While a chattering crowd of various species of bacteria is essentially a microbial tower of Babel, certain snippets of their chemical conversation are almost universally understood. HHMI researchers have found that bacteria of different species can talk to each other using a common language - and also that some species can manipulate the conversation to confuse other bacteria. See article.
g Intelligence - Your brain never stops working. But it does cease talking to itself when you lose consciousness, a new study shows. See article.
g Message - In late 1997, after almost 40 years of operation, the Ohio State University Radio Observatory and its "Big Ear" radio telescope — which picked up the famous “Wow!” signal — ceased operation. The land on which the observatory was sitting (owned by the Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio) was sold in 1983 to land developers who later claimed their rights to develop the property. The telescope was destroyed in early 1998. Here's a Web page memorial to Big Ear.
g Cosmicus - Swedish researchers plan to measure how astronauts on the International Space Station are affected by inhaling increased levels of dust in a gravity-free environment, in a project that may help asthma patients back on earth. See article.
g Learning - A British university has launched a three-year degree course in the hunt for life beyond planet Earth. See article.
g Imagining - There’s a neat Web site, Sector 001, that reviews the appearance of dozens of “Star Trek” aliens. It also includes some speculations about each one, particularly why so many are humanoid.
g Aftermath - Scientists and governments are vigorously searching for signs of life in the universe. Will their efforts meet with success? Award-winning author Paul Davies, an eminent scientist who writes like a science fiction novelist, explores the ramifications of that success in his fascinating book, “Are We Alone? Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” "The discovery of a single extraterrestrial microbe," he writes, "would drastically alter our world view and change our society as profoundly as the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. It could truly be described as the greatest scientific discovery of all time." Though a decade old, the book still is a great read. For more about it, see reviews.

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