Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cartwheel Galaxy in neon, space debris and the ‘quiet crisis”

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - A new picture from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer completes a multi-wavelength, neon-colored portrait of the enormous Cartwheel Galaxy after a smaller galaxy plunged through it, triggering ripples of sudden, brief star formation. See article.
g Abodes - NASA's Stardust spacecraft was placed into hibernation mode Sunday. Stardust successfully returned to Earth samples of a comet via its sample return capsule on January 15. The spacecraft has logged almost seven years of flight. See http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0601/30stardust/.
g Life - Somewhere between 3 million to 5 million years ago, a massive swarm of locusts took off from the west coast of Africa and made an unlikely voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to colonize the New World, says an international team of researchers. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051226101953.htm.
g Intelligence - A South African anthropologist said his research into the death nearly 2 million years ago of an ape-man shows human ancestors were hunted by birds. See http://www.livescience.com/history/060112_ap_bird_hunt.html.
g Message - Perhaps nothing says SETI Today more than the Allen Telescope Array, which is being built in collaboration with the Radio Astronomy Lab of the University of California, Berkeley. While the array is often described as a "dual use instrument," it would be more correct to say that it is a multi-tasking instrument. The simple implication that the array will conduct "SETI" and "other astronomy" is misleading. See http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_astrobiology_030619.html. Note: this article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - More than 9,000 pieces of space debris are orbiting the Earth, a hazard that can only be expected to get worse in the next few years. And currently there's no workable and economic way to clean up the mess. See http://space.com/news/ap_060120_space_junk.html.
g Learning -
The president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute wants U.S. President George Bush to urge a renewed national focus on science and technology. She calls it the “quiet crisis.” See http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/index.php?feed=Science&article=UPI-1-20060130-20212400-bc-us-bush-science.xml.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Fredric Brown’s short story "The Waveries." It first appeared in the January 1945 issue of Astounding magazine.
g Aftermath - The discovery that alien life exists would mean that we are not the center of the universe. While most religions now recognize that the Earth is just a lump of rock, they still believe that we human beings are the most important thing in creation, that we occupy a special place in God's plan. The existence of aliens would seem to make this implausible especially if they are more advanced than we are (on all levels, intellectually, spiritually) This would mean that God has acted in the development of the aliens in a way he did not act in ours, which in turn would mean that we do not occupy the paramount role in God's creation, which as I said is a fundamental idea in religions. See http://www.philosophos.com/knowledge_base/