Sunday, December 18, 2005

Titan’s methane, artificial vs. natural signals and life on a neutron star’s surface

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Astronomers using ESA's XMM-Newton observatory have found very hot gaseous halos around a multitude of spiral galaxies similar to our Milky Way galaxy. These 'ghost-like' veils have been suspected for decades but remained elusive until now. See article.
g Abodes - The methane giving an orange hue to Saturn's giant moon Titan likely comes from geologic processes in its interior according to measurements from the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer a Goddard Space Flight Center instrument aboard the European Space Agency's Huygens Probe. The GCMS, which descended with five other instruments on the probe through the moon's thick atmosphere on Jan. 14 also found evidence of liquid methane in the surface material. See article.
g Life - An international team, led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, has announced the publication of the genome sequence of the dog. In the Dec. 8 issue of the journal Nature, the researchers present a detailed analysis of the dog genome and describe how the data offer the potential for improving the health of man and man's best friend. See article.
g Intelligence - The brains of babies born very prematurely do not develop as well as those who are carried to full-term, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C. See article.
g Message - How can SETI scientists be sure they’ve picked up intelligence and not just the cosmic gurgle of a completely natural object? How can they know they’re not merely harkening to the ticking beat of a pulsar, the whoosh of a quasar or perhaps the lasing bray of a molecular gas cloud? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - NASA announced Friday the agency's Kennedy Space Center will be the takeoff site for an attempt to set the record for the longest flight of an aircraft or balloon. Steve Fossett will attempt to fly solo around the world, non-stop without refueling, in the aircraft designed by Burt Rutan. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site, courtesy of NASA: “What's the Difference?” Designed for all grades, the interactive software allows side-by-side comparisons of planets and scientific principles. See article.
g Imagining - We normally think of life developing on a planet. But could it evolve on a star? Robert L. Forward took this idea to an extreme in “Dragon's Egg,” a novel about life on the surface of a neutron star, composed of very dense "degenerate" matter. Surface gravity is in the millions, and the inhabitants live and think proportionally faster. See article.
g Aftermath - Philosophers and former politicians will soon join an elite group of scientists whose job it is to work out how to respond to signals from extra-terrestrial intelligence. See article. For related story, see “The call that is important to us all”.

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