Friday, December 09, 2005

Cosmic pileup, ‘Chased by Sea Monsters’ and upgrading Hubble

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 animation of a high-speed cosmic pileup has been created using images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Superheated gas called plasma, spewing from a newborn star, travels in clumps that move at different speeds. Fast-moving, recently ejected clumps sometimes catch up with slower batches that had been sent out previously. The resulting traffic jams create massive shock waves that travel trillions of miles across the cosmos. See article.
g Abodes - Here’s a neat site that discusses the effect of impact cratering on environments. In includes a map of where you can see impact craters. See article.
g Life - Book alert: “Chased by Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Predators of the Deep,” by Nigel Marven and Jasper James is a fascinating, if somewhat unsophisticated companion volume to the Discovery Channel program showcases some of evolution's most telegenic aspects, namely size and teeth. BBC-TV producers Marven and James (who also collaborated on Walking with Dinosaurs) survey the last half-billion years of marine life to rank the "seven most deadly seas" (i. e., geological epochs) in order of the scariness of their sea creatures. The book's combination of sensationalism, lurid graphics and solid scientific exposition is well judged to stimulate budding paleontologists. See reviews.
g Intelligence - Though getting older may seem inevitable, a major new study from the forthcoming issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology examines the point in human life when your body simply stops aging. See article.
g Message - While advanced civilizations might be tempted to use optical means such as lasers to send information between the stars, there are some good reasons that nearly all the major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiments are looking for radio waves instead. See article.
g Cosmicus - Preparations for a shuttle mission to upgrade and repair the Hubble Space Telescope in late 2007 or early 2008 are picking up steam as engineers map out the details of a five-spacewalk flight designed to keep the venerable observatory alive and well through at least 2013. See article. For related story, see “An interview with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin” at
g Learning - Here’s a neat way for kids to learn about the Red Planet, courtesy of NASA: “Roadtrip to Mars”.
g Imagining - What about the invading aliens from the X-Files: Are they plausible? A book released a few years ago that addresses the topic is “The Science of the X-Files,” by Jeanne Cavelos. See review (look near the end for a discussion on the extraterrestrial biology).
g Aftermath - The next social science to be created might be "exopsychology" — the study of behavior, attitudes, personalities and thoughts of alien beings. Although necessarily speculative, exopsychology might eventually be a critical link between humans and aliens. In the meantime, such a study could also provide the additional benefit of informing us about earthbound prejudices. See article.

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