Friday, December 30, 2005

Astrochemistry, evolving at different rates and Spaceport New Mexico

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 made the most detailed observation yet of the subtle vibrations of a Sun-like star. The technique reveals details of the star's interior that cannot be studied any other way. See article.
g Abodes - Book alert: “Astrochemistry,” by Andrew Shaw, is a basic introduction to the chemistry and physics of atmospheres other than Earth's. It is based on a second year chemistry course and assumes some knowledge of physical and organic chemistry along with some basic physics. Little prior knowledge of biology or astrophysics is assumed. Starting with an introduction to the chemical universe, the text covers stellar, meteorite, comet and planetary chemistry, before covering prebiotic chemistry and life in the solar system. Results from the latest research have been included throughout. See article.
g Life - Species evolve at very different rates, and the evolutionary line that produced humans seems to be among the slowest. The result, according to a new study by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, is that our species has retained characteristics of a very ancient ancestor that have been lost in more quickly-evolving animals. This overturns a commonly held view of the nature of genes in the first animals. The work appears in the current issue of the journal Science. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers have discovered a gene that controls the ability to react with appropriate fear to impending danger. As a result, mice lacking the gene stathmin become daredevils of a sort, the researchers report. The basic findings may have general implications for the study of anxiety disorders and potential anti-anxiety drugs, according to researchers. See article.
g Message - A new radio telescope array has been developed by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute and the University of California at Berkeley that will shed some cosmic noise, and give scientists a better view of one million stars scattered throughout the universe. See article.
g Cosmicus - The public space travel company, Virgin Galactic, has identified a new departure point for flying people to the suborbital heights: New Mexico. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Remote Sensing.” In this lesson, students discover how remote sensing is used to identify the signatures of life even when the particular life form is not directly observable. See article.
g Imagining - Are there any alternatives to DNA or RNA, as an “X-Files” episode said there was? See article.
g Aftermath - Some of the best discussion of the consequences of alien contact occurs in science fiction. Here’s a novel that ranks among the most important in that dialogue: Arthur C. Clark’s “Songs of a Distant Earth.” Look for it at your library or local used bookstore.

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