Saturday, November 19, 2005

Einstein rings, galactic empires and science in our schools

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 - A ring often serves as the visible symbol of the unseen - be it mystical, Lord of the Rings-style power or the devotion between two people. In space, a ring of light is more than a symbol. It is a guidepost to unseen matter and a beacon from galaxies in the distant universe. See article.
g Abodes - Not many people celebrate their year-end holidays on the east Antarctic ice sheet. But nearly every year for more than a decade, University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory professors, graduate students or alumni have. See article. For related story, see "Japanese Asteroid Probe Apparently Lost in Space".
g Life - When amateur fossil finder Van Turner discovered a small vertebra at a construction site near Dallas 17 years ago, he knew the creature was unlike anything in the fossil record. Scientists now know the significance of Turner's fossil as the origin of an extinct line of lizards with an evolutionary twist: a land-dwelling species that became fully aquatic, Dallasaurus turneri. See article.
g Intelligence - Women seem more likely than men to enjoy a good joke, mainly because they don't always expect it to be funny, according to a new study. See article.
g Message - Could galactic empires exist? In a previous article, we noted that there has been plenty of time for aliens keen on colonizing the Milky Way to pull it off. However, we see no signs of galactic federation ("Star Trek" aside). Why does the cosmos look so untouched and unconquered? What is keeping advanced extraterrestrials from claiming every star system in sight?
Here’s part II of a neat series, by astrobiologist Seth Shostak, on Fermi’s Paradox.
g Cosmicus - Many scientists are skeptical about the scientific value of sending people into space. A physicist argues that this skepticism is seriously misplaced, and that science has been, and will continue to be, a major beneficiary of human space flight. See article.
g Learning - The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design'' isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate raging in the United States. See article.
g Imagining - One of the questions bruited about in SF circles is Fermi's Paradox: Where are the aliens? In a universe with billions of galaxies, galaxies having a hundred billion stars, it is implausible that this planet is the only abode of intelligent life, that there aren't quite a few planets around with intelligent life forms on them. Given intelligent aliens it is not likely that we lead the pack as far as technology and science are concerned. In fact, if one thinks of the billions of years involved, there should be races that are millions of years ahead of us. When we think of what our own race has managed to achieve in the past few hundred years of technological development we boggle at what could be achieved in millions of years by these hypothetical aliens. Surely their technology must be like magic to us, as far beyond our comprehension and the laser are beyond the comprehension of a caveman. See article.
g Aftermath - Scientists should pay greater attention to discussing the social implications of discovering extraterrestrial life - even though many researchers shy away from the subject because they don't consider it "hard" science. See article.

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