Friday, November 04, 2005

Universe’s earliest light, an evil twin full of surprises and junk DNA

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 - Scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope say they have detected light that may be from the earliest objects in the universe. If confirmed, the observation provides a glimpse of an era more than 13 billion years ago when, after the fading embers of the theorized Big Bang gave way to millions of years of pervasive darkness, the universe came alive. See article.
g Abodes - University of Colorado at Boulder planetary scientist Larry Esposito, a member of the European Space Agency's Venus Express science team, believes the upcoming mission to Earth's "evil twin" planet should be full of surprises. See article.
g Life - Genetic material derisively called "junk" DNA because it does not contain the instructions for protein-coding genes and appears to have little or no function is actually critically important to an organism's evolutionary survival, according to a study conducted by a biologist at UCSD. See article.
g Intelligence - Visual information can be processed unconsciously when the area of the brain that records what the eye sees is temporarily shut down, according to research at Rice University in Houston. See article.
g Message - "If you're sending a message to extraterrestrials, what you want to send is what's special about us and our planet — what is unusual," according to SETI astronomer Frank Drake. See his latest essay.
g Cosmicus - Many people still think that to get the chance to go to space you've got to try to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, the chance of getting to be a government astronaut is tiny, simply because there are so few - and there's no prospect of a lot more being employed. However, don't despair. Far more people will go to space as visitors. See article.
g Learning - A school board member testified Wednesday she voted to include "intelligent design'' in a high school biology curriculum despite not knowing much about the concept because she thought students should be aware of alternatives to evolutionary theory. Oh boy. See article.
g Imagining - There’s some good news (at least for scientists and rationalists) in a new Gallup poll: When asked "do you believe that extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth at some time in the past," 51% said no. That fraction has risen. In a 1990 poll, 41% said no, and in 2001, 38%. See article.
g Aftermath - Quote of the Day: "He, who through vast immensity can pierce,/See worlds on worlds compose one universe,/Observe how system into system runs,/What other planets circle other suns,/What varied Being peoples every star,/May tell why Heaven has made us as we are." — Alexander Pope

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