Thursday, December 01, 2005

Crab Nebula, high lakes, robotic systems for space exploration

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 Hubble Space Telescope image - among the largest ever produced with the Earth-orbiting observatory - gives the most detailed view so far of the entire Crab Nebula. The Crab is arguably the single most interesting object, as well as one of the most studied, in all of astronomy. See article.
g Abodes - For the fourth year in a row, a team of scientists has traveled up into the Andes mountains in Bolivia to study the life forms - mostly microbes - that inhabit some of the highest lakes in the world. These high lakes offer researchers an opportunity to study life in an extreme environment on Earth that is in some ways like conditions on Mars. Astrobiology Magazine will be posting a series of log entries from the expedition leader, Nathalie Cabrol. See entries.
g Life - What is life, and where does it exist? Those questions are at the heart of Peter Ward's challenging but eminently readable new book, "Life as We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life." See reviews.
g Intelligence - A team of Spanish and American neuroscientists has discovered neurons in the mammalian brainstem that focus exclusively on new, novel sounds, helping humans and other animals ignore ongoing, predictable sounds. See article.
g Message - Scientists find it hard enough to pin down evidence of early life on our own planet. How on Earth do we plan to determine whether life exists elsewhere? See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - NASA will announce two new cash prizes Friday, each with a weighty $250,000 purse, in a pair of contests aimed at developing robotic systems for space exploration. See article.
g Learning - Here are some great teacher resources on space biology. The modules cover such topics as “Life in the Universe,” “Radiation Biology” and “Life in Space Environments.” Each module includes an introduction, readings and references, teaching resources and research and applications.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Harlan Ellison’s (ed.) “Medea: Harlan's World” (1985), a symposium on alien creation.
g Aftermath - As we begin the new millennium, large elements of both the scientific and lay communities are sensitive to the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. Whereas it is sensible to be cautious as to when unmistakable evidence of ETI will be acquired, some searchers expect this discovery to occur in the near future. From the perspective of our descendants 1,000 years hence, initial contact will be part of history and their attention will be directed somewhere else. At that time, any difficulties or dislocations that occurred during first contact will be long past. Interacting with other civilizations will be no more unusual than interacting with human colonies that will be sprinkled throughout our solar system. One thousand years from now people will be quite different than they are today. Human interaction with ETI could account for only some of these differences. See article.

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