Sunday, November 20, 2005

Earth’s space-time vortex, 30 billion Earth-like planets and the American Meteor Society

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 - Is Earth in a vortex of space-time? We'll soon know the answer: A NASA/Stanford physics experiment called Gravity Probe B recently finished a year of gathering science data in Earth orbit. The results, which will take another year to analyze, should reveal the shape of space-time around Earth - and, possibly, the vortex. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers say there could be 30 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - Scientists have known of just two living venomous lizards: the Gila monster and the Mexican beaded lizard. Turns out there may be more than 1,500 of them. The discovery, reported last week by the journal Nature, alters thinking on the origins of venom. See article.
g Intelligence - Heredity helps determine why some adults are persistently lonely, research co-authored by psychologists at the University of Chicago shows. See article.
g Message - We seem to have the galaxy to ourselves. At least, that’s the obvious conclusion from the apparent lack of aliens in the neighborhood. But that conclusion may be a bit too obvious. Here’s part II of a neat series, by astrobiologist Seth Shostak, on Fermi’s Paradox.
g Cosmicus - China’s space program is about three decades from landing astronauts on the Moon, but will make significant strides during that time, according to one expert following the nation’s human spaceflight efforts. See article. For related story, see "Digging the Moon".
g Learning - One great way to get kids interested in astronomy is to have them see falling stars. How would you know when to do that? The American Meteor Society, Ltd., a non-profit scientific organization established to encourage and support the research activities of both amateur and professional astronomers who are interested in the fascinating field of meteor astronomy, offers a great web site with all of the information you need. The society’s affiliates observe, monitor, collect data on, study, and report on meteors, meteor showers, meteoric fireballs and related meteoric phenomena. See article.
g Imagining - Book alert: "The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900," by Michael J. Crowe, marks the first detailed, scholarly study in English of the many varied astronomical, philosophical and religious ideas that developed between 1750 and 1900 regarding the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. The author examines the great extent to which prominent historical figures (Kant, Herschel, Paine, Lowell, etc.) engaged the issue, and demonstrates the powerful effect the question has had on Western intellectual life. See reviews.
g Aftermath - Could religions survive contact with extraterrestrials? The Medieval Church didn't think so, as the discovery would challenge mankind's central role in the cosmos. Today such ideas are considered old fashioned, and many theologians welcome the discovery of life — even intelligent life — among the stars. But if scientists were to find microscopic Martians or a signal from another world, would established religions really take it in stride? For a discussion, check out this past program of SETI’s "Are We Alone?". Note: An mp3 player is required to play the audio files; you can download one at the site for free.

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