Friday, November 18, 2005

How stars form, liquid water on Mars and Fermi’s paradox

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 - Astrophysicists have exploded one of two competing theories about how stars form inside immense clouds of interstellar gas. See article.
g Abodes - A new research by a team of scientists at the University of Arkansas suggests that liquid water could persist for some time on Mars, so long as it is salty. See article. For related stories, see "Rock found in Atlas hints at past water on the Martian surface" (Note: this article is from 2004), "Mars magmas once contained a lot of water, researchers from MIT and U. of Tennessee report", and "Mars Society boldly goes to Oz".
g Life - Arizona State University geochemists have discovered that certain clay mineral under conditions at the bottom of the ocean may have acted as incubators for the first organic molecules on Earth. See article.
g Intelligence - A gigantic ape standing 10 feet tall and weighing up to 1,200 pounds lived alongside humans for over a million years, according to a new study. See
. For related story, see "King Kong... Almost".
g Message - Here’s part I of a neat series, by astrobiologist Seth Shostak, on Fermi’s Paradox. In this chapter, Shostak asks: "Is there obvious proof that we could be alone in the galaxy? Enrico Fermi thought so - and he was a pretty smart guy. Might he have been right?"
g Cosmicus - A record-setting, point-to-point piloted rocket plane flight is scheduled for next month. See article.
g Learning - Prior to the public opening of "Darwin" Nov. 19 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, LiveScience's Ker Than toured the exhibit. These are his impressions.
g Imagining - Book alert: Stephen Baxter's "Manifold Time" and (especially) "Manifold Space" are extensive explorations of two variants of the Fermi paradox. The first uses the "rarity of life" explanation, the second assumes ubiquitous life but emphasizes how vicious the universe appears to be. The second book presupposes that intelligent life cannot get substantially "smarter" than we are now (ie. no super-intelligences); this is a necessary assumption for his story telling (and an increasingly common device in science fiction). See reviews.
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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