Monday, January 30, 2006

Coiled magnetic field, Project Constellation and ‘Virtual Skies’

eWelcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Astronomers have discovered a giant magnetic field that is coiled like a snake around a rod-shaped gas cloud in the constellation Orion. See article.
g Abodes - Tantalizing signs of water have been found in the atmospheres of planets orbiting distant stars. If confirmed, the "astonishing" discovery will fuel speculation that the galaxy is teeming with life.
. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - A research team led by David Reznick, a professor of biology at UC Riverside, has found that as some populations of an organism evolve a longer lifespan, they do so by increasing only that segment of the lifespan that contributes to "fitness" - the relative ability of an individual to contribute offspring to the next generation. See For related story, see “Fish Mating Preferences Change with Age” at
g Intelligence - By borrowing mathematical tools from theoretical physics, scientists have recently developed a theory that explains why the brain tissue of humans and other vertebrates is segregated into the familiar "gray matter" and "white matter." See
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
g Cosmicus - NASA’s Project Constellation program has been overhauled to include a slightly smaller Crew Exploration Vehicle and a new human-rated booster with an Apollo-era upper stage engine. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site, courtesy of NASA: “Virtual Skies.” For grades 9-12, in these activities students solve real-life air traffic management problems. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read David Brin’s short story "Fortitude." It appeared in the January 1996 issue of Science Fiction Age magazine.
g Aftermath - Reactions to the announcement that scientists had found evidence for primitive life in a meteorite from Mars have been intense. Some concerned the scientific evidence, some the implications of extraterrestrial life, especially if intelligent. Underlying these reactions are assumptions, or beliefs, which often have a religious grounding. The two divergent beliefs, for and against the plurality of life in the universe, are examined historically and through religious traditions, particularly the Judeo-Christian. This examination guides the formulation of the right relation between science and religion as one that respects the autonomy of each discipline, yet allows for each to be open to the discoveries of the other. Based on this relationship, perspectives from scientific exploration are developed that can help individuals to respect and cope with the new phenomena that science brings, whether these imply that we might be alone in the universe or co-creatures of God with the ancient Martians. See