Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Orion Nebula, Ice Age clues and designing New Mexico’s spaceport

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 - In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is offering an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. This turbulent star-formation region is one of astronomy's most dramatic and photogenic celestial objects. See article.
g Abodes - Long before the finishing touches are made to UW-Madison's Microbial Sciences Building, a small but significant bit of science has emerged from the hole where the $120 million, 330,000 square-foot structure is emerging. See article. For related story, see “Rewriting Glacial History In Pacific North America”.
g Life - Imagine going back 250 years. The United States has not been born, and no one travels faster than 30 miles an hour. Now jump 10 times further back, to 2,500 years ago. Greece is entering its golden age, and Rome is a cantankerous village. Multiply by 10 again, 25,000 years back, and our caveman ancestors are battling the Ice Age while Neanderthals are dying out. Ten again, and ape-related hominids have not yet evolved into our own species, homo sapiens. Another 10, and the saber-tooth tiger first appears on Earth. Ten again, to 25 million years ago, and India is still an island while South America has only recently split from Africa. Ten times again and we leapfrog the entire history of dinosaurs and find ourselves an almost incomprehensible 250 million years back, in a world of giant ferns and primitive conifers. We're at the dawn of both mammals and dinosaurs, and many creatures look like a weird cross between the two. Welcome to Peter Ward country. See article.
g Intelligence - A protein that seems to be pivotal in lifting depression has been discovered by a Nobel Laureate researcher funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health. See article.
g Message - Does ET use snail mail? See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - With a projected $225 million being spent to create a "purpose-built" spaceport near Upham, N.M. — expected to be completed by 2009-2010—for many of the principals involved there remains but one question: what is a 21st century spaceport supposed to look like? See article.
g Learning - Here is a very thorough list of astrobiology-related journals, magazines and newsletters.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read David Bischoff’s "The Xaxrling of J. Arnold Boysenberry," anthologized in “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW, 1997).
g Aftermath - While formal principles have been adopted for the eventuality of detecting intelligent life in our galaxy, no such guidelines exist for the discovery of non-intelligent extraterrestrial life within the solar system. Current scientifically based planetary protection policies for solar system exploration address how to undertake exploration, but do not provide clear guidance on what to do if and when life is detected. Considering that Martian life could be detected under several different robotic and human exploration scenarios in the coming decades, it is appropriate to anticipate how detection of non-intelligent, microbial life could impact future exploration missions and activities, especially on Mars. See article.

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