Monday, November 07, 2005

Nebula cloudshine, zircon dating and why plants can’t be intelligent

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 new observing technique has allowed astronomers to see astronomers call the light they're detecting "cloudshine" in nebula. Astronomers liken what they’ve seen to clouds above Earth glowing because of streetlights. See article.
g Abodes - A newly developed method that detects tiny bits of zircon in rock reliably predicts the age of ocean crust more than 99 percent of the time, making the technique the most accurate so far. See article.
g Life - Scientists in India say they have discovered two fossils fused together in sexual union for 65 million years. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim, Germany have now demonstrated, in a study published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology, that at least some adult stem cells could be the mere remnants of former embryonal differentiation processes, or, in other words, "footprints" of evolution. See article.
g Message - Quote of the Day: "In a cosmic setting vast and old beyond ordinary human understanding, we are a little lonely. In the deepest sense the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for who we are." - Carl Sagan
g Cosmicus - Martin Rees is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Britain’s Astronomer Royal. He is the author of numerous popular science books, including the best selling "Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe." Astrobiology Magazine caught up with Rees as he ponders the effect of interplanetary travel on human evolution. See interview.
g Learning - Here’s a great idea that more colleges and public schools ought to implement: Starting a Junior Astronomer's Club.
g Imagining - Cold plants ever be intelligent as is often shown in science fiction videos? Probably not. To quote the Web site "Evolutionary Psychology Primer": "That’s because organisms that don't move, don't have brains. Trees don't have brains, bushes don't have brains, flowers don't have brains. In fact, there are some animals that don't move during certain stages of their lives. And during those stages, they don't have brains. The sea squirt, for example, is an aquatic animal that inhabits oceans. During the early stage of its life cycle, the sea squirt swims around looking for a good place to attach itself permanently. Once it finds the right rock, and attaches itself to it, it doesn't need its brain anymore because it will never need to move again. So it eats (reabsorbs) most of its brain. After all, why waste energy on a now useless organ? Better to get a good meal out of it."
g Aftermath - Here’s another "old" piece worth reading: "Consequences of Success in SETI: Lessons from the History of Science", given during a Bioastronomy Symposium in 1993.

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