Saturday, January 14, 2006

North Star, preparing for Mars and religion surviving first 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 - We tend to think of the North Star, Polaris, as a steady, solitary point of light that guided sailors in ages past. But there is more to the North Star than meets the eye. The North Star is actually a triple star system. And while one companion can be seen easily through small telescopes, the other hugs Polaris so tightly that it has never been seen - until now. See article.
g Abodes - There’s a new mission to Mars. But we’re not talking about cute little robot rovers anymore. CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports on a plan to turn the Red Planet into a green one – one that could support life. "What we propose is to use greenhouse gases – the same ones that are currently on the earth causing climate change," said Margarita Marinova, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. See article. Note: this article is from 2005.
g Life - Astrobiologists often have compelling adventures in far-flung locations. Charles Cockell, professor and chair of microbiology at the Open University in the UK, recounts an unusual expedition collecting moths in Indonesia. See article.
g Intelligence - In experiments with mice, scientists from Johns Hopkins' Institute for Cell Engineering have discovered the steps required to integrate new neurons into the brain's existing operations. 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 September 2003.
g Cosmicus - A few weeks before leaving for the Antarctic Concordia Station, the Italian-French crew that will spend over one year in one of the harshest, isolated environments on Earth, attended two days of preparatory training at ESA's Headquarters in Paris, France. During their stay at the research station the crew will participate in a number of ESA experiments - the outcome of which will help prepare for long-term missions to Mars. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a great classroom resource guide, courtesy of NASA: NAI's team at NASA Ames Research Center has created Chapter 4 of the Yellowstone Resources and Issues Guide which tells all about thermophiles, their habitats in the park, and their relationship to both the history of life on Earth, and the search for life elsewhere. The guide is used to train park naturalists and rangers, and it can also serve as a valuable resource when teaching about extremophiles and astrobiology in the classroom. Download your copy.
g Imagining - Will robots one day rule the world? For decades this notion has both fascinated and terrified humans, our hungry imagination fed by Hollywood blockbusters and sci-fi novels. Now a new generation of robots promises a breakthrough in the world of Artificial Intelligence as they become capable of cognitive thought processes. See article.
g Aftermath - Could religions survive contact with extraterrestrials? The Medieval Church didn't think so, as this 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? See podcast of this SETI Institute “Are We Alone?” program.

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