Sunday, October 09, 2005

Meteorites’ secrets, human evolution in broadband and borrowing shuttle technology

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 - Intricate wisps of glowing gas float amid a myriad of stars in this image created by combining data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. See article.
g Abodes - Important clues to the environment in which the early Earth formed may be emerging from Purdue University scientists' recent study of a particular class of meteorites. See article.
g Life - Here’s a neat Web site that explores the physics of vertebrate flight, with particular emphasis on its origins and evolution. See article.
g Intelligence - Here’s a Web site, beautifully illustrated by paleoartist John Gurche, that presents "the story of human evolution in a broadband documentary experience." Users can examine fossil evidence, compare hominid anatomies and study cultural milestones. The site also offers the latest news and debates in paleoanthropology, as well as a comprehensive resource and Web guide. It’s presented by the Institute of Human Origins.
g Message - Book alert: In “Are We Alone? Scientists Search for Life in Space”, a rare combination of engaging narrative and factual information, Gloria Skurzynski uses techniques she's developed as a fiction writer to energize her science writing. This book not only brings the reader into the world of extra-terrestrial science, but is also very much about the hopes and dreams of real people. She lends a strong personal voice to the narrative, drawing the reader deep into the world of extraterrestrial study. Humans have always been fascinated with extraterrestrial life, and the book traces that interest, including the origination of the term "flying saucer." Sloan also explains why scientists don't buy it.
g Cosmicus - NASA’s grand plan to revive human exploration beyond Earth orbit relies greatly on utilizing a heritage of hardware from the soon-to-be-scraped space shuttle program. See article. For related story, see “NASA downsizing its plans for space station”.
g Learning - Here’s a neat lesson plan for middle school astronomy: “The Life Cycle of Stars".
g Imagining - There are several species in the Star Trek universe that look exactly like humans. The unlikely fact that life on different planets has taken a similar, if not the same direction was sufficiently explained in The Next Generation episode "The Chase." In this key episode to the Star Trek universe, Captain Picard's crew finds evidence that four billion years ago the first human civilization explored our galaxy, and they were disappointed because they found themselves alone. To preserve their heritage, they spread encoded DNA fragments across many Class-M planets throughout the galaxy, thereby triggering a development similar to their own. Aside from the evolution schedule the DNA fragments, correctly assembled, contain a message to their descendants, namely humans, Klingons, Cardassians, Romulans and all the other humanoid races of the galaxy that are in some way related to each other. As fascinating is this theory, a couple of problems remain. See article.
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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