Saturday, April 30, 2005

Titan’s organic atmosphere, Paleozoic ice age and powering a lunar outpost

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 – For the first time an X-ray image of a pair of interacting stars has been made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The ability to distinguish between the interacting stars — one a highly evolved giant star and the other likely a white dwarf — allowed a team of scientists to observe an X-ray outburst from the giant star and find evidence that a bridge of hot matter is streaming between the them. See article.
g Abodes – During its closest flyby of Saturn's moon Titan earlier this month, the Cassini spacecraft found that the outer layer of the thick, hazy atmosphere is brimming with complex hydrocarbons. Scientists believe that Titan's atmosphere may be a laboratory for studying the organic chemistry that preceded life and provided the building blocks for life on Earth. See article. For related story, see “Organically-certified Titan”.
g Life – Why were rates of extinction so low for many of the major groups of marine life during one of the greatest ice ages of them all, which occurred from about 330 million to 290 million years ago late in the Paleozoic Era. The likely answer: because those aquatic life forms that did survive during this era were singularly equipped to endure severe fluctuations in temperature and sea levels. See article.
g Intelligence – A few simple but important steps that have led to the manufacture of radio telescopes. In human evolution, the development of facilities and fire was critical in the establishment of a metal technology. Adequate resources derived from agriculture were essential for the development of advanced technology. At all stages, the ratio of cost to reward had to be small and the technological development had to follow an appropriate cultural preadaptation. Play would unquestionably have been important in technological innovation. The history of toys has yet to be written, but it may be a key to an understanding of the progressive development of human technology. See article.
g Message – Here’s a nice primer on the seti@home project plus some information about how to download the program.
g Cosmicus – Here's how local scientists propose to power the first human outpost on another world: Launch a rover to the moon and melt its dusty soil into acres of electricity-generating solar panels. A year later, when astronauts arrive, all they have to do is plug into the grid. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity, courtesy of NASA: “The Drake Equation”. Students estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy by first estimating the number of craters on the Moon and then by performing estimates of multiple-variable systems culminating in the use of the Drake Equation.
g Imagining – Book alert: A complaint that I see again and again of science fiction aliens — and I’ve made it myself — is that they look too much like us. Is that complaint valid? Is it so unlikely that extraterrestrials would look similar (not identical) to human beings? If so, then what would beings, intelligent or not so intelligent, who evolved on another world look like? That's what Cliff Pickover explores in “The Science of Aliens”.
g Aftermath –Epicurus, in the fourth century BC, believed that the universe contained other worlds like our own, and since his time there has been considerable debate whether extraterrestrial life exists and might communicate with us. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See article.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Stellar nursery, virus evolution and reasoning infants

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 – Appearing like a winged fairy-tale creature poised on a pedestal, the Eagle Nebula is actually a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery. The soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 57 trillion miles high, about twice the distance from our Sun to the next nearest star. See article.
g Abodes – Researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and the University of California, Santa Cruz have discovered that Earth's last great global warming period, 3 million years ago, may have been caused by levels of CO2 in the atmosphere similar to today's. See article.
g Life – Researchers from the Viikki Biocenter, University of Helsinki, show that atomic structures can reveal evolutionary history of viruses in a similar fashion as fossils did for the dinosaurs and reptiles. Their article is published in the April 15 issue of Molecular Cell. See article.
g Intelligence – According to conventional wisdom, babies don't begin to develop sophisticated psychological reasoning about people until they are about 4 years old. A study of 15-month-olds at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign proves otherwise. See article.
g Message – Phoning home intergalactically may have one natural prerequisite if a civilization is hoping to connect: timing their precursor signal or 'ring' so that we might know that they're broadcasting. Dr. Robin Corbet, of the Universities' Space Research Association discusses his research findings on Synchronized SETI. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus – Book alert: The title of “Spacefaring: The Human Dimension,” really ought to be “Spacefarers,” because unlike many space travel authors, Albert Harrison, a professor of psychology, focuses primarily on the people doing the traveling. On the technological side, he explores astronaut selection and training, medical and environmental hazards, and issues of life support and habitation. He pays equal attention to "soft" science aspects of human space travel, such as the stresses that arise from working and surviving in space, group dynamics among astronauts, and even off-duty time (and it is here that Harrison boldly goes where few space authors have gone before — into the realm of sex in space). See reviews.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “Life Cycle of Stars”. Students analyze characteristics that indicate human life cycles, and then apply these observational principles to various NASA pictures of stars to synthesize patterns of stellar life cycles.
g Imagining – What should science fiction writers consider when creating a new alien species? Here’s a list of some important considerations as part of a lesson from a class on “world building”.
g Aftermath – The structure of terrestrial music might provide clues to creating interstellar messages that could be understood by extraterrestrial intelligence. In the process, he suggests that music may provide a means of communicating "something of our consciousness that is essentially human, regardless of the civilization from which it emerges." See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

M51 up close and looking for alien pollution

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 – The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. This sharpest-ever image of the Whirlpool Galaxy was taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. See article.
g Abodes – Looking for biosignatures that would be characteristic of intelligent life is not always about extrapolating the most intelligent things a species might be doing. For instance, would one look for pollutants in the atmosphere? Carnegie Institutions' Maggie Turnbull answers that and other questions from colleagues following her lecture, "Remote Sensing of Life and Habitable Worlds." See article.
g Life – Scientists have yearned to understand how the chirps and warbles of a young bird morph into the recognizable and very distinct melodies of its parents. Neuroscientists at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT now have come one step closer to understanding that process. They've shown for the first time how a particular brain region in birds serves as the source of vocal creativity. See article.
g Intelligence – The complexity of the brain and, more specifically, how nerve cells form billions of contacts when there are fewer than 30,000 human genes is still a scientific mystery. A research team appears to have answered that question. See article.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Hydrogen-heavy Earth, searching for E.T. in Mexican lakes and fatal inhalation of moon dust

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 – Using two orbiting X-ray telescopes, a team of international astronomers has examined distant galaxy clusters in order to compare them with their counterparts that are relatively close by. See article.
g Abodes – A new University of Colorado at Boulder study indicates Earth in its infancy probably had substantial quantities of hydrogen in its atmosphere, a surprising finding that may alter the way many scientists think about how life began on the planet. See article.
g Life – With cobalt waters harboring eerie, coral-like formations, this archipelago of lakes in Mexico’s searing Chihuahuan desert has always had an otherworldly appearance. Now, top NASA researchers say the calcified clumps of primitive bacteria lurking in its pools could provide important clues in their search for extraterrestrial life. See article.
g Intelligence – Book alert: Check out “Biocosm,” by James N. Gardner and Mark Burnett (with forward by Seth Shostak). The book asks: Is intelligent life merely a bit player in the enormous pageant of the cosmos or is it destined to become something vastly more important, specifically the architect of the universe and of other universes to come? Gardner and Burnett carefully reviews all the best ideas on how to understand the cosmos’s apparent biological imperative and then puts forth a new, and strikingly dramatic, suggestion of their own, one that makes use of the exciting field of complexity science: the “Selfish Biocosm” hypothesis. See reviews.
g Message – Here’s an intriguing hypothesis concerning the nature of extraterrestrial messages to Earth. It is based on the assumptions that aliens exist in abundance in the galaxy, that they are benevolent toward Earth-based life forms and that the lack of any human detection of extraterrestrials is due to an embargo designed to prevent any premature disclosure of their existence. It is argued that any embargo not involving alien force must be a leaky one designed to allow a gradual disclosure of the alien message and its gradual acceptance on the part of the general public over a very long time-scale. The communication may take the form of what is now considered magic, and may therefore be misinterpreted as “magic” or a hoax by contemporary governments and scientists. See article.
g Cosmicus – Inhaling lunar or Martian dust could be bad for astronauts who track it into spacecraft or planetary modules. See article.
g Learning – The battle over the teaching of evolution could heat up over the coming weeks, with Kansas' State Board of Education expected to revise its science standards in June. See article.
g Imagining – You may recall from the “Learning” entry of a few weeks ago that for several years a “game” called COTI has been available, in which the “players” design an integrated world, alien life form and culture and simulate contact with a future human society. Here are the results of one of those simulations, in which humanity encounters the Squitch, a bipedal alien with long, triple-jointed hind legs, which, when extended, scissored out to more than twice the length of the body pod. See article.
g Aftermath – What are the theological implications of a universe willed with many intelligent beings from many other worlds? See article.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Star nursery close-up, plans for Mars and the secret of termite guts

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 – Detailed new images of the starbirth nursery in the Omega Nebula have revealed a multi component structure in the envelope of dust and gas surrounding a very young star. The stellar newborn, called M17-SO1, has a flaring torus of gas and dust, and thin conical shells of material above and below the torus. See article.
g Abodes – Aiming to nail down whether Mars could have nurtured life in the past, the Mars Science Laboratory will live up to its name, with a state-of-the-art internal chemical and mineralogical laboratory. The rover will pick up rocks, chew, swallow then analyze the minerals in detail as no Mars mission ever has. See article. For related story, see “Tornado, signs of Martian of spring” and “Chaos on Mars”.
g Life – The way termite guts process food could teach scientists how to produce pollution-free energy and help solve the world's imminent energy crisis. Speaking at the Institute of Physics conference Physics 2005 in Warwick on Monday, Nobel laureate Steven Chu urged scientists to turn their attention to finding an environmentally friendly form of fuel. In an impassioned plea to some of the world's brightest minds, he explained how he's leading by example and encouraged others to join the effort that "may already be too late." See article.
g Intelligence – Can common nutrients curb violent tendencies and dispel clinical depression? See article.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Philip Morrison, 1915-2005

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of one of modern astrobiology's founders, Philip Morrison. See article.

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Solar nebula’s life cycle, red dwarf biology and what animals think of humans

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 – The oxygen and magnesium content of some of the oldest objects in the universe are giving clues to the lifetime of the solar nebula, the mass of dust and gas that eventually led to the formation of our solar system. See article.
g Abodes – If you want to find extraterrestrial intelligence, you're going to have to look in the right place. In our galaxy alone there are more than 100 billion stars, so you might expect to find a profusion of alien abodes. But which suns do you point your telescope at? Bright, yellow stars like our own Sun have always seemed the obvious place to start. In the past few years, though, researchers have begun to wonder if they've been neglecting a whole class of likely targets: red dwarfs. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Life – A search for extraterrestrial bugs which may be invading Earth has been launched by British scientists. See article.
g Intelligence – If you live with animals, the real question isn’t whether they can think or not. It’s “What do they think of humans?” It isn’t a personal question—Have I earned the horses’ respect? — it’s a philosophical one. Living with animals means coming to terms with who they are and what makes them tick. That’s what you want to know when you train a dog or ride a horse or try to catch a barnyard goose. At least that’s what I want to know. I live and write on a small farm in New York State, and since my work, most days, means asking questions about the world around me, I find myself wondering about the animals I live with. I take it for granted that they also wonder about me. I can see the questions in their eyes, in the tilt of their ears: Who are these humans? Why do they behave the way they do? See article.
g Message – If "E.T." is out there, whether in the form of intelligent beings or much simpler organisms, we may soon be hot on its trail. For the first time in history, the dream of searching for signs of life in other solar systems belongs not only on the philosopher's wish list, but also on the list of doable and planned human endeavors. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus – Chip-scale refrigerators capable of reaching temperatures as low as 100 milliKelvin have been used to cool bulk objects for the first time, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology report. The solid-state refrigerators have applications such as cooling cryogenic sensors in highly sensitive instruments for semiconductor defect analysis and astronomical research. See article.
g Learning – If science communications in astrobiology is about researchers sharing their results, the audience for new findings may well turn out to be a surprising finding in itself. John Horack, one of the principal Internet architects for how a Webby-award winning NASA site found its audience, explains new ways to view the problem of sharing science. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining – What will an alien look like? If you follow the viewpoint of most television sci-fi, then all aliens will be men in rubber alien suits. The producers of “Star Trek” seem to think aliens are just like humans with little latex ridges on the noses or foreheads. The reason for this anthropomorphism on TV is that it’s cheap. The alien in the movie “Alien” was gross and ugly, and we surely would never be able to discuss our New Age feelings with such a creature. It cost the movie producers much more than a little latex on the bridge of an actors nose. The truth is that we are much more likely to meet Sigourney Weavers’s alien than a Bajorran. See article.
g Aftermath – Book alert: In “Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe,” published in late 2003, authors Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of alien a life, and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. They explain why scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds, how we could discover it, and what it might be like. Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. See reviews.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Swift mission, Biosphere 2 and non-peaceful aliens

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 – Understanding how events that originate in space could affect the future of the Earth and its environment is an important goal of astrobiology. That’s why the NASA-led Swift mission was launched. Find out what happened when they recently opened Swift’s doors.
g Abodes – In Oracle, Ariz., the Biosphere 2 project became the world's largest closed ecosystem. Project managers have now opened its interior to visitors. Among the diverse land, water and air environments enclosed under glass, most of the planet's major biomes are represented to view. As one of the few models for space colonization, the ecosystem has examples of coral reefs and savannahs. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Life – In assessing the possibility that life either exists now, or has in the past, on some other planet or moon, we must be able to evaluate whether the conditions there are, or were, compatible with life as we know it on Earth. As Alfred Russel Wallace emphasized at the beginning of the 20th century, the first requirement for life is liquid water; without it, as far as we know, life is impossible. The same reasoning also applies to organic compounds. Carbon-based polymers such as nucleic acids and proteins make up the core molecules required to carry out the central biological functions of replication and catalysis. Without these functions, life as we know it could not exist. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Intelligence – The discovery that new neurons can appear in the adult brain may be the most surprising of the last quarter century of neuroscience. The scale of the phenomenon and its significance remain to be established, but it appears that one of the oldest dogmas in the business is not true. There have also been important paradigm shifts. For example: the notion that in the nervous system, as much as in the immune system, selection from among diverse elements is more important than instruction to shaping a functional structure; the notion that feeling and consciousness can be approached by neurobiology, no less so than memory or language; the notion that emotion and reason are not separate developments in evolution but related and interactive processes; and the notion that most neural events indispensable for mental states occur at the nonconscious level and that this goes well beyond the Freudian nonconscious (which is there, too). See article.
g Message – Book alert: In “Are We Alone? Scientists Search for Life in Space,” a rare combination of engaging narrative and factual information, Gloria Skurzynski uses techniques she's developed as a fiction writer to energize her science writing. This book not only brings the reader into the world of extra-terrestrial science, but is also very much about the hopes and dreams of real people. She lends a strong personal voice to the narrative, drawing the reader deep into the world of extraterrestrial study. Humans have always been fascinated with extraterrestrial life, and the book traces that interest, including the origination of the term "flying saucer." Sloan also explains why scientists don't buy it. See reviews.
g Cosmicus – Male astronauts exposed to cosmic rays in space are not likely to pass on possible mutations caused by the rays to their offspring, according to a new study by a collaboration that includes a scientist from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat lesson, courtesy of NASA: “The Expanding Universe.” Students create a balloon model of the expanding universe and review Hubble Space Telescope measurements that are refining estimates for the age of the universe. See article.
g Imagining – Life can be defined in many ways, but basically it involves an organism reproducing. If you believe that evolution is true (and many people, it seems, do not) you'll realize that organisms gradually grow more complex due to natural selection and survival of the fittest. This applies to all life. So why isn't it possible for there to be a society where organisms are peaceful all the time? See article.
g Aftermath – How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See article.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Not-so-dumb animals, space debris mitigation and the Guardian of Forever

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 sky survey by Anglo-Australian astronomers has put forward a new calculation for the number of stars in the visible universe. Their estimate is larger than the number of sand grains on Earth. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Abodes – A NASA funded study has found a decline in winter and spring snow cover over Southwest Asia and the Himalayan mountain range is creating conditions for more widespread blooms of ocean plants in the Arabian Sea. See article.
g Life – It's human nature to clean for company more thoroughly than one would for oneself, but nowhere is this truth taken to greater extremes than at the Johnson Space Center. NASA is setting new standards of cleanliness in its labs that handle samples returning from space. And their efforts are laying the groundwork for samples that might some day contain evidence of extraterrestrial life from Mars, Europa and other points little known. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Intelligence – Most dog and cat owners will aver that their furry housemates are brimming with personality. But what about animals that have a less intimate relationship with us? Are birds neurotic? Can octopi be disarmingly charming? New research is teaching us how to recognize and measure animal personality. Tune in to Sunday’s “Are We Alone?” SETI’s weekly radio broadcast as they ask the experts to unravel the behavior of what once were thought to be only "dumb beasts." In addition, they'll talk about some surprising findings suggesting that having a bird brain might be nothing to be ashamed of. Here's where to tune in.
g Message – Book alert: If you are interested in how researchers plan to search the heavens for signs of intelligent life, you should have “SETI 2020” on your bookshelf. Written by Ronald D. Ekers (editor), D. Kent Cullers and John Billingham, “SETI 2020: is a remarkably comprehensive study of how scientists busy with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence should direct their efforts between now and the year 2020. Distilling the work of dozens of top SETI experts, astronomers and technology mavens, this book gives an overview of the problem of finding evidence for extraterrestrial technologies, and how to best address it. New radio telescopes consisting of large arrays of relatively small antennas are proposed and detailed. So are new types of antennas that can survey the entire sky at once. Of particular interest is the extensive treatment of optical SETI — the search for signals beamed our way using high-powered, pulsed lasers or their equivalent. A book that's interesting for both the layman and the technically sophisticated, “SETI 2020” is the definitive publication in this fascinating field. See reviews.
g Cosmicus – There is a lot of junk orbiting the Earth and the problem will worsen unless there are changes in how spacecraft operators operate. But it is not all doom and gloom. The first steps toward a comprehensive solution are already well underway including a European code of conduct for space debris mitigation. See article.
g Learning – Truth squad alert: A conservative Christian law firm has asked that two Michigan teachers be allowed to teach intelligent design alongside evolution in their science classes. Click here for the latest effort to teach biology’s equivalent of “the Earth is flat.”
g Imagining – Could Star Trek’s Guardian of Forever (click on "The Guardian of Forever) — the ancient portal that does not know if it’s a machine or a life form — evolve? The Guardian likely is an intelligent, self-aware machine. Presuming that time travel to the past is even possible, the enormous energy required to accomplish this task likely wouldn’t arise in a naturally evolving organic creature. Instead, it probably would be done mechanically (though organic elements might be incorporated into the machine’s components). Of course, a significant motif of science fiction is the question if artificial constructs that gain self-awareness then also “life” (as in The Next Generation android Data). A civilization capable of creating a stable time portal almost certainly also would be capable of creating an intelligent, self-aware machine. In short, the Guardian didn’t evolve via survival of the fittest but was built.
g Aftermath – Here’s another “old” piece worth reading: “Consequences of Success in SETI: Lessons from the History of Science”, given during a Bioastronomy Symposium in 1993.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day, mice in suspended animation and the Gorn

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 – NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted what may be the dusty spray of asteroids banging together in a belt that orbits a star like our Sun. The discovery offers astronomers a rare glimpse at a distant star system that resembles our home, and may represent a significant step toward learning if and where other Earths form. See article.
g Abodes – As the world marks the 35th anniversary of Earth Day on Friday, environmentalists are debating the future of a movement that seems to be losing the battle for public opinion. President Bush's re-election, the failure to slow global warming and the large number of Americans who dismiss them as tree-hugging extremists have environmental leaders looking for new approaches. See article.
g Life – As missions to Mars continue to be planned, scientists periodically review three very successful expeditions to the Red Planet’s surface: the two Viking probes in the 1970s and Mars Pathfinder in 1997. They wonder what it might take for life detection to become part of future experimental profiles. The Viking examples however show this not to be a scientific case of “add-water-and-stir.” See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Intelligence – Book alert: In 2003’s The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science,” author Steven Mithen takes on the formidable task of describing how the mind of modern humans emerged from the minds of earlier hominids. The scarcity of hard evidence from prehistoric times, particularly about physical changes in the brain, makes this difficult to do. Mithen adopts the concept that there are different kinds of intelligence such as general, social, and technical. In his view, human ancestors evolved from having only general intelligence to supplementing that with other, specialized intelligences that enabled tool making and language. The explosion in cultural creativity between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago occurred when these various intelligences were integrated, making possible art, religion, and science. Consciousness adopted the role of an integrating mechanism for knowledge that had been trapped in separate specialized intelligences. See reviews.
g Message – The search for extraterrestrial intelligence could be taking the wrong approach. Instead of listening for alien radio broadcasts, a better strategy may be to look for giant structures placed in orbit around nearby stars by alien civilizations. See article.
g Cosmicus – Scientists have for the first time put mice into a state of suspended animation and brought them back to normal life. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “A Case of the Wobbles”. Students plot and analyze NASA data to determine the period of an invisible planet orbiting a wobbling star.
g Imagining – Among the more famous alien races from “Star Trek” are the Gorn, bipedal reptilians who are much larger and stronger than humans (see picture). The Gorn are an unlikely alien species but a splendid example of how we so often portray extraterrestrials based not on scientific principles but our own psychology — like the insect alien, most humans naturally find the reptilian alien repulsive. For science fiction, it’s a good choice to create suspense: creatures out of our nightmares that we keep going back to out of a fascination over what frightens us. But could the Gorn evolve on another world? Probably not. The most troubling feature of the Gorn is the remarkable parallel evolution that would have to occur on Gorn Prime and Earth for a few billion years, at least up to our Age of Dinosaurs. Also disconcerting is the Gorn’s snout; this adds weight to the head and with a large brain size creates excessive and unbalanced weight for the neck muscles to hold up. Another problem is the Gorn’s slow movements; certainly a species that evolved to intelligence would have to move a little faster, or it could not succeed in hunting. A caveat here is that its lack of agility may in part have propelled it to intelligence, as it needed to outthink faster moving prey. Some “Star Trek” fans have speculated that Gorn Prime possesses a harsh environment and a relatively high local gravity (1.4 Gs!), which accounts for the Gorn’s increased strength and endurance levels. This seems unlikely, though, as the Gorn then would be able to move swiftly on the asteroid presented in the episode, which Kirk shifts about on as if it were Earth normal gravity.
g Aftermath – Donald E. Tarter, a consultant in space policy and technology assessment, makes a persuasive case for developing the protocols and technology to reply to an extraterrestrial signal before news of the discovery is made public, in his article, “Advocating an Immediate Response.” Delay could be costly as technologically advanced fringe groups or ambitious nations could attempt to score a propaganda victory by being the first to reply, creating a mixed and perhaps embarrassing first message. This could be avoided by settling on a quick and simple message to let the extraterrestrial source know that we had received their message. See article. Note: The piece is a few years old.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dusty inner solar system and astrobiology gets dictionary definition

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 – Looking at a star similar to our sun, the Spitzer Space Telescope has detected a dusty inner solar system. Violent collisions within a large asteroid belt may be generating all this dust. Such an asteroid belt also would present a danger to any habitable planets orbiting the star. See article.
g Abodes – What are the primary bioindicators for remote sensing of life on a far-away world? A report prepared for future space-borne telescopes that will seek to answer this question, also looks deeper into how to find and confirm these prospective water worlds. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Life – Does the famous Martian meteorite, found in the Antarctic, really contain microscopic fossils as suggested by some scientists? Scientists are hard at work trying to answer that question – by looking for evidence that the conditions were suitable for life and for signs of biological activity in the ratios of the abundances of isotopes of carbon and other elements in the rock. They are also trying to answer other questions about life in the universe, for example, by designing a space telescope to look for evidence of life on Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars. The science of searching for signs of extraterrestrial life – exobiology – is blossoming. Like many new disciplines, it draws together previously separated sciences, and recent progress in such diverse fields as biology, chemistry, paleontology, geology, atmospheric physics, meteorology, space exploration and astronomy has revolutionized the subject. See article.
g Intelligence – A little humor can brighten your outlook, a new study suggests. See article.
g Message – Whenever the director of SETI research presents a public lecture, she can almost guarantee that “What If everybody is listening and nobody is transmitting?” will be one of the questions the audience asks. See article.
g Cosmicus – As expected, NASA managers Wednesday announced a May 22 target date for shuttle Discovery's liftoff on the first post-Columbia mission, saying time needed to close out a handful of open issues precluded an attempt at the May 15 opening of the actual launch period. See article.
g Learning – A dictionary like no other in the world, the Oxford English Dictionary has been described as "among the wonders of the world of scholarship." Last year, the OED announced the term, astrobiology, among its latest new entries. Defining a field that spans traditional disciplines may be as complicated as defining what is "life" itself. For semantic purposes, astrobiology is now officially about "the discovery or study of life on other planets and in space." See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining – Would life forms on other worlds have to possess eyes, ears and limbs like higher organisms on Earth? Would they have to have a similar genetic code? Or can life exist not as we know it? These questions may be unanswerable now, but astrobiologists are anxious to answer the underlying question: How do you define life? See article. Note: This article from 2004.
g Aftermath – What changes can we expect in our culture if there is a prevalence of the living state throughout the cosmos? See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ever-changing Mars, abiotic geochemical processes and determining a frequency for contact

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 – Of the 500 scientifically interesting stars within 30 light-years, how many habitable zones will astronomers be able to image? If there's a planet in those habitable zones, how detectable will that planet be? Carnegie's Maggie Turnbull presented a talk, "Remote Sensing of Life and Habitable Worlds: Habstars, Earthshine and TPF," at a NASA Forum for Astrobiology Research on March 14. This edited transcript of the lecture is part three of a four-part series. See article.
g Abodes – Since the time billions of years ago when Mars was formed, it has never been a spherically symmetric planet, nor is it composed of similar materials throughout, say scientists who have studied the planet. Since its formation, it has changed its shape and thus the stability of its polar axis. A Canadian researcher has calculated the location of Mars' ancient poles, based upon the location of five giant impact basins on the planet's surface. See article.
g Life – Scientific teams around the globe are on the trail of methane seeping out of Mars. And for good reason: The methane could be the result of biological processes. It could also be an "abiotic" geochemical process, however, or the result of volcanic or hydrothermal activity on the red planet. See article.
g Intelligence – Iowa Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh sounds like a proud mother when she speaks about her brood of bonobos, eight ultra-intelligent apes that will take part in unique language research meant to shed light on their nature and maybe our own. See article.
g Message – Estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization is a multi-dimensional challenge. The answer, according to two scientists at the Hungarian Astronomical Association, is less like an equation, and more like a matrix. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus – Speaking before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today, SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan said the commercial space industry will thrive but the current regulatory system is need of repair and nearly destroyed his program. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “Designer Genes for a Designer World.” In this series of guided inquiry activities, students explore how organisms adapt to their environments through changes in their genetic codes. See article.
g Imagining – Browse the local used bookstores for this volume, which examined the scientific plausibility of many alien creatures in “Star Trek”: “To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek”. Published about four years ago, Athena Andreadis' book makes a good read, boosted by her background as a molecular biologist and neurosurgeon.
g Aftermath – Could religions survive contact with extraterrestrials? The Medieval Church didn't think so, as the discovery would challenge mankind's central role in the cosmos. Today such ideas are considered old fashioned, and many theologians welcome the discovery of life — even intelligent life — among the stars. But if scientists were to find microscopic Martians or a signal from another world, would established religions really take it in stride? For a discussion, check out this past program of SETI’s “Are We Alone?” Note: An mp3 player is required to play the audio files; you can download one at the site for free.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Searching for habstars, waiting for another Einstein and identifying lunar outpost sites

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 – Maggie Turnbull, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution, has spent many years thinking about what kind of stars could harbor Earth-like planets. Her database of potentially habitable star systems could be used as a target list for NASA's forthcoming Terrestrial Planet Finder mission. Turnbull presented a talk, "Remote Sensing of Life and Habitable Worlds: Habstars, Earthshine and TPF," at a NASA Forum for Astrobiology Research on March 14. This edited transcript of the lecture is part two of a four-part series. See article.
g Life – University of Colorado scientists have found bacteria that live in the rocks of a hot, acidic environment in Yellowstone National Park. Such extremophiles – organisms that can tough it out at sub-zero temperatures or with little water – are the cat’s meow to astrobiologists, who want to determine the origin of life here on Earth, as well as estimate good spots to look for life elsewhere. See article.
g Intelligence – Will there ever be another Einstein? This is the undercurrent of conversation at Einstein memorial meetings throughout the year. A new Einstein will emerge, scientists say. But it may take a long time. After all, more than 200 years separated Einstein from his nearest rival, Isaac Newton. See article.
g Message – Is it even ethical for us to contact alien life? See article. Note: This article is a few years old.
g Cosmicus – An illuminated part of a lunar crater rim may be very close to the Moon's North pole and is a candidate for a peak of eternal sunlight. Such places could be key locations for future lunar outposts. The European Space Agency's SMART missions — Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology — are designed to test new spacecraft technology and propulsion while visiting various places in the solar system. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “Mountain Quest.” Students divide into five research teams to make recommendations for building a new observatory for NASA. See article.
g Imagining – Speculation about aliens has typically been left to science fiction authors, science fiction readers and Hollywood writers and directors. But what if we apply what we have learned about life on Earth to speculate about what alien life forms might be like? Here’s a primer.
g Aftermath – Here’s an intriguing read: the final report of “The Workshop on the Societal Implications of Astrobiology". Note: The workshop was held in 1999.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Wired planet and Martian biology

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 – Consider it nothing short of the cosmic quest for all time: Understanding the origin, evolution, distribution and fate of life on Earth and in the universe. There has been a salvo of new findings, just within the last few years alone. See article.
g Abodes – Imagine the planet wired for a nearly continuous readout on its vital signs, shared by all. That's the essence of a White House plan announced today. See article.
g Life – Berkeley biophysicist Richard Mathies talked with Astrobiology Magazine about plans for a 2009 experiment to test for Martian biology. By making a portable test for protein detection and classification, his contribution to future forensics may yield the most comprehensive tests yet for detecting life elsewhere. Can heating soil samples with amino acids reveal biological origin — or not? See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Intelligence – Here’s a neat primer to human prehistory, divided into three sections: 1. Overview of Human Evolution; 2. Hominid Species Timeline; and based on evolution, 3. Human Physical Characteristics. See article.
g Message – What are our friends south of the equator doing in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence? After all, the Northern Hemisphere only covers half of the galaxy. See article.

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Black holes got it started, populating Earth and Beta III’s Landru

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 – New studies of the very distant universe confirm the idea that black holes and galaxies helped each other grow through massive mergers. See article.
g Abodes – Oceanographers have probed the ancient sediments beneath Lake Malawi in East Africa and recovered sediment samples that provide up to 1.5 million years of information about how climate in Africa has changed. See article.
g Life – The rare discovery of eggs inside a dinosaur has given scientists new clues about the reproductive biology of the creatures and more support for the theory that birds came from dinosaurs. See article.
g Intelligence – Researchers are aiming to learn more about how the Earth was populated by collecting and analyzing genetic samples from 100,000 people around the globe. See article.
g Message – You probably saw “The Search for Other Earths” cover of the December National Geographic. Here’s the article online.
g Cosmicus – NASA's $110 million high-risk, high-tech demonstration of a space autopilot for future human spaceships and robotic cargo craft closed within 300 feet of its target Friday night, then inexplicably ran out of fuel to the dismay of helpless engineers on the ground. See article.
g Learning – The challenge to communicate both the breadth and depth of astrobiology is discussed by Carol Oliver, of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. As a researcher in communicating science, she considers how best to tell a busy public what it means to explore other worlds for signs of life elsewhere. See article.
g Imagining – Can life be ”artificial,” as appears to be the case with many of Star Trek’s computer gone awry, such as Beta III’s Landru? See article.
g Aftermath – How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See article.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Domino solar eruptions, moon base and life in extreme gravity

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 detailed study of a huge solar eruption reveals that a series of smaller explosions combined in a domino effect to fuel the blast. See article.
g Abodes – When astronomers discovered that the planets around Upsilon Andromedae had very strange orbits, they weren't sure what could have caused it. Researchers from Berkeley and Northwestern have developed a simulation that shows how an additional planet could have given the other planets the orbital kick they needed to explain their current eccentricities. If a similar planet had passed through our own Solar System early on, all our planets could be in wildly different orbits around the Sun. See article.
g Life – One million years ago, elephants and their cousins roamed the five major continents of the earth. Then humans came along. Today elephants can be found only in portions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. There is a long-running debate over what drove elephants to extinction in some parts of the world and completely wiped other two other proboscideans, mammoths and mastodons. The two most argued hypotheses for their decline are climatic changes and over-hunting by humans. A recent archaeological expedition dug up information that may support the latter. See article.
g Intelligence – Hold the rose-colored glasses: Toddlers understand much more about false beliefs than parents and scientists previously suspected. A Canada-U.S. research team has discovered that very young children absolutely comprehend that other people believe things that aren't true. See article.
g Message – Does ETI use snail mail? See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus – Researchers have identified what may be the perfect place for a Moon base, a crater rim near the lunar north pole that's in near-constant sunlight yet not far from suspected stores of water ice. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: Sun’s Impact on Earth Temperature. In this lesson, students manipulate graphical computer models to determine the effect of distance, albedo and greenhouse effectiveness on planet temperature. See article.
g Imagining – Could extraterrestrials exist in conditions of extreme gravity, as they do in Hal Celement’s “A Mission of Gravity”?
g Aftermath – How will major world religions be affected by the reception ofradio transmissions from an extraterrestrial intelligence? Here’s an interesting project that posits some possible scenarios.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Star wind, desert crocs and problems in ‘Star Trek’ exobiology

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 tracked the motion of a violent region where the powerful winds of two giant stars slam into each other. The collision region moves as the stars, part of a binary pair, orbit each other, and the precise measurement of its motion was the key to unlocking vital new information about the stars and their winds. See article.
g Abodes – Scientists from NAI's Virtual Planetary Laboratory recently visited the exotic lakes of Cuatro Ciengas in Mexico's Chihuahuan desert. What's being studied there may provide clues what life on other, distant worlds may be like, and help scientists understand and interpret the data coming back from extrasolar planets? See article.
g Life – Two newfound species of crocodile-like amphibians that lived more than 250 million years ago in desert conditions suggest the animal world was more diverse back then than thought. See article.
g Intelligence – A leading expert in artificial intelligence and neural networks argues that cognition in humans and many animals occurs in a very different, non-algorithmic and less complex way than has been widely assumed until now. See article.
g Message – Here’s a neat Web site about Arecibo Observatory, the large radio telescope located in Puerto Rico that was featured in the film "Contact”.
g Cosmicus – Scientists recently unveiled the tiniest electric motor ever built. You could stuff hundreds of them into the period at the end of this sentence. What effect might this have on space exploration? See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “Interstellar Real Estate.” The lesson examines what makes Earth the perfect home for life as we know it as students explore the orbital characteristics a planetary home needs to support Earth-like life forms. See article.
g Imagining – Here’s a neat list of exobiology problems in “Star Trek”, courtesy of the Ex Astra Web site. The list includes "Strong Aliens", Shapeshifters, Pon Farr and Reading Ferengi Minds.
g Aftermath – Book alert: As many Earthlings already know —including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience — our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that Brian McConnell’s “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations”, an introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life, begins with some of the details behind the University of California-Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Reviving mammoths, synesthesia and planets as lifeforms

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 – Located in the Lupus I (the Wolf) cloud, a region of star formation about 400-500 light-years away, a young T-Tauri star may be either a new planet or a failed star. Although the borderline between the two is still a matter of debate, one way to distinguish between them is by their mass. If a new observation of this object holds, GQ Lupi b would thus be the youngest and lightest exoplanet to have been imaged. See article.
g Abodes – If increased precipitation and sea surface heating from global warming disrupts the Atlantic Conveyer current — as some scientists predict — the effect on the ocean food chain in the Atlantic and other oceans could be severe, according to a new study just published in Nature. See article.
g Life – Scientists with the Mammoth Creation Project hope to find a frozen woolly mammoth specimen with sperm DNA. The sperm DNA would then be injected into a female elephant; by repeating the procedure with offspring, a creature 88 percent mammoth could be produced within 50 years. See article.
g Intelligence – To most people a "red-letter day" is merely a metaphor. But it's everyday reality to a synesthete who sees the alphabet in colors. Synesthesia, a condition characterized by one sensory experience generating another — so that shapes have tastes, for instance — is estimated to affect between 1 in 200 to 1 in 2,000 people. See article.
g Message – Book alert: In “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” author Brian McConnell examines the science and technology behind the search for intelligent life in space, from the physics of inter-stellar laser and radio communication to information theory and linguistics. If you've ever wondered whether it really would be possible to communicate with other civilizations, you'll want to read this book. See reviews and sample chapters.
g Cosmicus – After decades of sending probes across the void of interplanetary space, officials are now reshaping how solar system exploration is accomplished. The renovation is due in large measure to the visionary Moon, Mars and beyond directive given to NASA by President George W. Bush just more than a year ago. While money and mandate are in a state of near-rendezvous, the melding of space science objectives with human exploration goals is still to be fully played out, as is the prospect of broader international collaboration. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a quality Web introduction to the solar system: “The Nine Planets”. The site is an overview of the history, mythology and current scientific knowledge of each planet and the major moons in our solar system. Each page has text and NASA's images, some have sounds and movies, most provide references to additional related information.
g Imagining – Can planets themselves be lifeforms, as in Olaf Stapledon’s “Star Maker”? See article.
g Aftermath – Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See reviews.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

New type of star cluster and noncorporeal life

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 British-led team of astronomers has discovered a completely new type of star cluster around a neighboring galaxy. The new found clusters contain hundreds of thousands of stars, a similar number to the so-called "globular" star clusters which have long been familiar to astronomers. See article.
g Abodes – Scientists may be able to identify habitable conditions and evidence of life on planets outside our solar system using spectroscopic analysis. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life – Finding life elsewhere in the universe depends on knowing when you see it, according to Colorado professor Carol Cleland. She gives a view of how life might not need a working definition as much as a theory of life — at least until scientists find a few more exceptions to prove the rules. See article.
g Intelligence – College seems to pay off well into retirement. A new study from the University of Toronto sheds light on why higher education seems to buffer people from cognitive declines as they age. See article.
g Message – Book alert: Despite an evidently open-minded attitude, Barry Parker delivers the hard line to ET enthusiasts in “Alien Life: The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond": "Strangely, we haven't found a single sign of life beyond our solar system." The emeritus Idaho State University professor of astronomy and physics summarizes recent scientific conjecture on extraterrestrial life without venturing much personal speculation. He considers the "architecture of life" and the mystery of DNA as related to its possible exploitation elsewhere; the possibility of non-carbon-based life forms; the history of Mars exploration (including the recent "meteorite from Mars" discovery); the results of NASA space probes; the discovery of distant planets through advanced telescopy; and the SETI program's search for alien radio signals. Parker acknowledges the contentions of UFO believers, but devotes few pages to claims of alien encounters such as the well-known Roswell incident. Steering clear of that controversy as "an argument not likely to be resolved in the near future," Parker's hopeful and energetic book ends up reinforcing the science establishment's lonely outlook for humanity, but still leaves room for the possibility that if they are out there, we will find them, or they, us. See reviews.
g Cosmicus – Simulated moon dust has been used to make the substrate of a solar cell, according to University of Houston researchers. The fine gray powder is 50 percent silicon dioxide, along with a mixture of oxides of 12 different metals — including aluminum, magnesium and iron. What effect might this have on space exploration? See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: Who Can Live Here? Students explore the limits of life on Earth to extend their beliefs about life to include its possibility on other worlds. See activity.
g Imagining – Can life ever be noncorporeal, as are Star Trek’s Organians? See article.
g Aftermath – Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence depends as much upon social support for the project as upon appropriate engineering design and upon the actual existence of a nearby extrasolar civilization. The results of a sociological survey of 1,465 American college students provide the first detailed analysis of the social and ideological factors that influence support for CETI, thereby suggesting ways that support might be increased. Linked to the most idealistic goals of the space program, notably interplanetary colonization, enthusiasm for CETI is little affected by attitudes toward technology or militarism. Few sciences or scholarly fields encourage CETI, with the exceptions of anthropology and astronomy. Support is somewhat greater among men than among women, but the sex difference is far less than in attitudes toward space flight in general. Evangelical Protestantism, represented by the "Born Again" movement, strongly discourages support for CETI. Just as exobiology begins with an understanding of terrestrial biology, exosociology on the question of how interstellar contact can be achieved should begin with serious sociological study of factors operating on our own world. See article.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Star target list, Prometheus program and the Black Cloud

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 from the University of Durham may have solved a decades-old puzzle regarding the distribution of the 11 small satellite galaxies that surround the Milky Way. See article.
g Abodes – Maggie Turnbull, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution, has spent many years thinking about what kind of stars could harbor Earth-like planets. Her database of potentially habitable star systems could be used as a target list for NASA's upcoming Terrestrial Planet Finder mission. See article.
g Life – Human activities such as hunting and logging have driven nearly a quarter of the world's primate species — man's closest living relatives — to the brink of extinction, according to a new report. See article.
g Intelligence – The nation's central bank says that if you're gorgeous, chances are better that you will get paid more than plain folks. See article.
g Cosmicus – NASA’s Prometheus program to employ nuclear reactors in space is a work in progress — viewed as a key building block of the space agency’s vision for space exploration. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: The First Manned Mission to Mars. In this lesson, students will plan such an endeavour. In small groups and as a class, they will consider and discuss the social and scientific aspects of such a mission. See article.
g Imagining – Is the Black Cloud, the famous alien in Fred Hoyle’s science fiction novel, plausible? See article.
g Aftermath – Here’s an interesting article that from the viewpoint of some Christian theologies considers the condition of potential intelligent creatures in places in the universe other than Earth and inquires into the possible relationships of extraterrestrials to what our tellurian race calls religion and revelation. See article.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Drilling to the enter of the Earth and scientific assault on the Moon

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 have unveiled new research which shows how exploding stars may have helped to create the earth. The discovery was made during a unique research project examining how some dead stars reignite and come back to life. See article.
g Abodes – Scientist said last week they had drilled into the lower section of Earth's crust for the first time and were poised to break through to the mantle in coming years. See article.
g Life – Aiming to thwart persistent bacterial infections and better control group behaviors of certain microorganisms, scientists are creating artificial chemicals that infiltrate and sabotage bacterial "mobs." See article.
g Intelligence – A study published in the current issue of Journal of Personality studied adult male monozygotic and dizygotic twins to find that difference in religiousness are influenced by both genes and environment. But during the transition from adolescence to adulthood, genetic factors increase in importance while shared environmental factors decrease. See article.
g Message – Book alert: In “Are We Alone in the Cosmos? The Search for Alien Contact in the New Millenium,” edited by Byron Preiss and Ben Bova, major scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, explain their work and reveal their thoughts. Joining them are some of the best speculative thinkers, from Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov to Gregory Benford, who address the major philosophical questions involved. See reviews.
g Cosmicus – Not only the United States, but European, Indian, Japanese and Chinese probes are being readied for a new scientific assault on the Moon, hoping to glean insight about lunar ice, the Moon’s cratering history, and even how that big, dusty ball of rock got there in the first place. See article.
g Learning – Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: MarsQuest. Students team up to create a travel brochure to Mars describing the Martian atmosphere, climate topography, and mythology.
g Imagining – Here’s an interesting piece published in an online science fiction fanzine that examines if aliens in our literature can be considered truly “evil.” See article.
g Aftermath – Here’s an interesting master’s thesis paper from a Catholic perspective. The thesis reads: “Scholars and intellectuals for thousands of years have speculated on the theological implications of intelligent life on other worlds. Are extraterrestrial intelligent beings like human beings creatures with souls made in the spiritual image of God? Have ET’s not fallen from grace or are they sinners in need of Redemption? Is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ a unique universal event affecting the whole of creation? Did Jesus Christ come to redeem and save ET’s as well as human beings by his grace via his life, death, and resurrection? Is the mission of the Catholic Church to spread the Gospel throughout the cosmos, baptizing all creatures, humans and ET’s alike, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit? Do the very existence of ET’s contradict or support certain interpretations of the Bible’s view of the special nature of humanity? Does the existence of ET’s imply or deny the intelligent design of the universe by an Intelligent Designer who Christians believe is the Logos? This thesis will explore these questions in order to determine whether the answers are consistent with Christian thought and theology as well as compatible with the concepts of universal redemption, justification, sanctification, and salvation as historically posited by the Catholic Church.” See article.

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