Friday, November 25, 2005

How stars grow, evolution of lawn grass and the Tomatosphere

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 - Astronomers have detected the magnetic fields surrounding a young star for the first time, confirming models of how such stars grow. See article.
g Abodes - Earth's oceans are rising twice as fast today compared to 150 years ago, according to a new study. See article.
g Life - Grass existed on Earth at least 10 million years earlier than was known, based on a new discovery in fossilized dinosaur dung. See article.
g Intelligence - Howard Hughes medical Institute researchers have discovered a vast network of neurons in the reproduction of mice that governs reproduction and controls the effects of reproductive status on other brain functions. See article.
g Message - Carl Sagan’s bestseller, "Contact," was made into a movie in 1997 in which Jodie Foster played the role of the ice-cream cone-eating chief protagonist Ellie Arroway. Yet, after all these years, you just can’t miss the similarities Ellie shares with her real-life role model Jill Tarter, on whom Sagan based most part of the character. See article.
g Cosmicus - Want to encourage space exploration? Join the Planetary Society (now in its 25th year). See article.
g Learning - The Tomatosphere educational project will reach its zenith during the 2005-2006 school year. For the final year of this educational program, tomato seeds that have spent 18 months in orbit will be used in class science projects across Canada. See article.
g Imagining - Book alert: The how-to book "Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy" is divided into four parts: "Storytelling," "Ideas and Foundations," and two sections on mechanics, markets, and dealing with editors. Isaac Asimov wades in rather superficially on "Plotting," "Dialog," and "Revisions," but Poul Anderson's almost technical essay on preparing a scientifically valid world couldn't be better, and Hal Clement's piece on peopling such a world is just as good. Norman Spinrad uses the techniques of futurists to model how space colonization could occur and provides graphs for the beginner. The tilt here is toward "hard" science fiction, but Jane Yolen's meditation on fantasy, "Turtles All the Way Down," is lyrical and even moving in its reverence for the past. Connie Willis writes about comedy and Stanley Schmidt, amusingly, about cliches. The market listings are exhaustive, including little magazines you won't find elsewhere. Valuable both for the beginner and the pro. See review.
g Aftermath - Award-winning author Paul Davies, an eminent scientist who writes like a science fiction novelist, explores the ramifications of successful contact with alien life in his fascinating book, "Are We Alone? Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life." "The discovery of a single extraterrestrial microbe," he writes, "would drastically alter our world view and change our society as profoundly as the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. It could truly be described as the greatest scientific discovery of all time." Though a decade old, the book still is a great read. See review.

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