Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stellar nursery theories, visit to Titan and how common other civilizations are in the universe

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 - Some regions in space are especially good at creating massive stars. Astronomers know the recipe for creating a star in one of these stellar nurseries calls for hydrogen gas, dust and some amount of heat and gravity, but they still don't know quite how all the parts come together or what triggers the event. Now, a collection of images presented by astronomers at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, France provides the most complete and detailed evidence supporting the collect-and-collapse model, without ruling out the other models. See article.
g Abodes - Saturn's giant moon Titan is so cold that, on its surface, water is as hard as a rock - literally. The European Space Agency's Huygens probe landed on Titan earlier this year. Images sent back to Earth by the probe reveal what appear to be rocks made of super-frozen water. But other instruments on the probe have raised some doubts. Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, recently gave a public lecture, sponsored by the Planetary Society, about what scientists have learned about Titan from the Huygens probe. In this, the final part of a four-part series, McKay talks about the unsolved mystery of Titan's ice rocks. See article. For related story, see "Surfing Saturn’s gravity".
g Life - Josh Smith, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has concocted a mathematical scheme for identifying dinosaurs based upon measurements of their copious Mesozoic dental droppings. His method could help paleobiologists identify and reconstruct the lives of the creatures that roamed our terra firma many millions of years ago. See article.
g Intelligence - Most comparisons of language and inherited traits consider whether genetics conform with expected relationships observed by linguists. But now researcher is utilizing genetic data to support specific hypotheses raised by linguists regarding the relationships between language families. See article.
g Message - Humanity is even now advertising itself splendidly to the universe. Given this, we cannot know whether the first artificial nonhuman signal detected would place us in the role of intended recipient or of eavesdropper. In our explorations, we should allow for both possibilities. See article.
g Cosmicus - Within the framework of general relativity and without the introduction of wormholes, is it is possible to modify a space-time in a way that allows a spaceship to travel with an arbitrarily large speed, such as faster than light? One physicist thinks so. See article.
g Learning - It’s a familiar chestnut: "the dinosaurs would be around today if they only had a space program." Of course there’s truth in this. If the lubberly lizards that once stomped the planet had rocket technology, they might have deflected the 5-mile diameter asteroid that speedily incinerated them and subsequently starved most of what remained. But the simple is: Science education is good for the survival of the species. See article.
g Imagining - How common are other civilizations in the universe? This question has fascinated humanity for centuries, and although we still have no definitive answer, a number of recent developments have brought it once again to the fore. Chief among these is the confirmation - after a long wait and several false starts - that planets exist outside our solar system. See article. Sorry in advance for the Web site that I found this otherwise credible article on.
g Aftermath - For some provocative reading, pick up "Sharing the Universe," by Seth Shostak, at your local bookstore. SETI scientist Shostak almost single-handedly is outlining social and political issues that will arise once we make contact with extraterrestrials. See reviews.

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