Sunday, January 15, 2006

Death spiral into a black hole, Earth-like worlds common and the bigger the brain the better

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 - How does matter spiral its way to the center of a galaxy and into the mouth of a supermassive black hole? A new study provides the best glimpse yet at the death spiral of material as it descends into the core of a galaxy hosting a large black hole. The study predicts that, barring obstructions, the galactic debris will take about 200,000 years to make a one-way trip through the inner regions of the galaxy and into oblivion. See article.
g Abodes - New theoretical work shows that gas-giant planet formation can occur around binary stars in much the same way that it occurs around single stars like the Sun. The work was presented by Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC. The results suggest that gas-giant planets, like Jupiter, and habitable Earth-like planets could be more prevalent than previously thought. See article.
g Life - The stem cells that produce bird feathers have been visualized and analyzed for the first time, signifying the initial step in a scientific journey that may ultimately shed light on human organ regeneration. The research, published in the December 15 issue of the journal Nature, was performed by a group of prominent stem-cell researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. See article. For related story, see “OHSU Discovery Sheds Light Into How Stem Cells Become Brain Cells”.
g Intelligence - Brain size matters for intellectual ability and bigger is better, McMaster University researchers have found. See article.
g Message - When it comes to signaling across space, power is paramount. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - The first robotic explorer to visit Pluto and probe the Kuiper Belt in our solar system's outer frontier awaits launch from Cape Canaveral at 1:24 p.m. EST on Tuesday. Check out this highly detailed five-part preview story examining NASA's New Horizons mission. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom resource courtesy of NASA: “Life on Earth … and Elsewhere?” This booklet contains 5 classroom activities for grades 5-10 spanning topics from "Defining Life," to "Determining the Chances of Extraterrestrial Life."
g Imagining - The answers showed that science fiction not only reflects science but is also an inspiration for it. See article.
g Aftermath - How's your math? Well, you may want to brush up on it - that is, if you hope to be conversant with ET. Scientists say that any signal we receive from intelligent life is rather unlikely to be in English, but in the language of math. Find out why algebra truly may be an alien concept - just as you suspected in high school - and what a message from another planet might be. See podcast of this SETI Institute “Are We Alone?” program.

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