Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Missing dark matter, definition of ‘planet’ and gorillas using tools

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 - According to the prevailing "cold dark matter" theory of the evolution of the universe, every galaxy is surrounded by a halo of dark matter that can only be detected indirectly by observing its gravitational effects. This theory faced a challenge in 2003, when a team of astronomers reported a surprising absence of dark matter in elliptical galaxies. See article.
g Abodes - An international group of astronomers trying to define the term planet may be finally nearing a decision, but a consensus is unlikely. See article.
g Life - Among humans, conventional wisdom is that women pick men based on more than just looks. Not so with the female barn swallow. She doesn't care about personality. See article.
g Intelligence - For the first time ever, scientists have observed and photographed wild gorillas using tools, in one instance employing a stick to test the depth of a pool before wading into it, according to a study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society and other organizations. Up to this point, all other species of great apes, including chimpanzees and orangutans, have been observed using tools in the wild, but never gorillas. See article.
g Message - Among the most important SETI work is being done at Harvard University. The Harvard SETI home page is at http://seti.harvard.edu/seti/ and discusses the Radio Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, The Arecibo Search for Early Hydrogen and Optical SETI.
g Cosmicus - For a Web site with a lot of quality pictures and illustrations explaining our search for life in our own solar system (especially on Mars and Jupiter’s moons), go to article.
g Learning - Hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area girls, their parents and their teachers will join former NASA astronaut Sally Ride on a journey of scientific discovery in early October. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s a neat site that examines aliens in science fiction films. While short on studying the evolution of those aliens, it does discuss how these villainous creatures are a manifestation of our own fears, a nice take on the anthropomorphic bias most people possess regarding alien life.
g Aftermath - Will we ever find a primer for decoding messages from extraterrestrials? A gathering of anthropologists at a major conference in Atlanta heard some news that will be sobering for SETI enthusiasts: it may be much more difficult to understand extraterrestrials than many scientists have thought before. See article.

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