Saturday, January 07, 2006

Life at high temperatures, brain’s ability to reorganize itself and fictional aliens on the Sun

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 - Although the lightest elements formed moments after the Big Bang, the other elements must have formed by other processes. This site is a basic overview of nucleosynthesis: the formation of elements in astrophysical sites, written by Benjamin Weaver. It explains the principles of both the s-process and r-process as well as formation of some of the lighter elements and provides a short reference list for anyone interested in reading about the subject in more detail. See article.
g Abodes - Reading the narrow bands of iron found in some sedimentary rocks, scientists may have found a way to assess microbial populations across time and space, opening a window to the early history of life on Earth and possibly other planets. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Life - How can life live at high temperatures? Here’s a great Web site explaining how bacteria do it at Yellowstone.
g Intelligence - The brain's ability to reorganize itself - strengthening or weakening connections between neurons or adding or subtracting those connections - allows it to form memories, make transitions between sleep and waking, and focus attention on objects of interest. See article.
g Message - About 31 years ago, humanity sent its first and only deliberate radio message to extraterrestrials. Nobody has called back yet, but that's OK - we weren't really expecting an answer. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Cosmicus - Whatever its destiny, the failed Japanese asteroid probe Hayabusa still has generated priceless data for future treks to similar objects—by robots and humans. The intrepid robot is a heads up, not only for how best to utilize asteroid resources, but also to spoil a space rock’s aim if found to be on a direct-hit heading for Earth. See article. For related story, see “Stardust’s return”.
g Learning - Young scientists who will lead future searches for the origins of life in the universe are now getting their introduction to astronomy in Tucson. See article.
g Imagining - Could fictional aliens ever live on the Sun? See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. In “Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” Jean Heidmann, chief astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation - all of it grounded in real science - is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. See article.

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