Friday, January 27, 2006

Stellar jet, life’s traces upon the land and insights on chimp evolution

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 - Using highly resolved images from the Hubble Space Telescope, a international team of astronomers at Rice University and four other institutions has created the first moving pictures of a stellar jet. These massive streams of plasma spew from the poles of newborn stars, playing a critical yet poorly understood role in star formation. The research appears in the Astronomical Journal. See article.
g Abodes - Two new studies by a University of Rochester researcher show that mountain ranges rise to their height in as little as 2 million years - several times faster than geologists have always thought. See article.
g Life - If life were suddenly eliminated from the Earth, would a visitor from another planet be able to tell what once was here? Can the landforms of Mars tell us whether it once had a biota? Two UC Berkeley scientists conclude that life leaves a detectable but very subtle signature, including more rounded than angular hills. This was a surprise, since life has a big impact on erosion, both directly and through its effects on climate. See article.
g Intelligence - Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found genetic evidence that seems to support a controversial hypothesis that humans and chimpanzees may be more closely related to each other than chimps are to the other two species of great apes gorillas and orangutans. They also found that humans evolved at a slower rate than apes. See article.
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. See program.
g Cosmicus - The success of NASA’s Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity has scored high points for the wheeled automatons, but another plan may one day have their robotic successors hopping. That plan, according to its research team, calls for a swarm of small, spherical robots the size of tennis balls to hop across another world exploring caves, nooks and other crannies that past mobile robots have been too large to study. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat primer (for kids) to understanding extremophiles and how an understanding of them affects astrobiology: “Brave New Biosphere”.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Hal Clement’s novel “Cycle Of Fire,” published by Ballantine in 1957.
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See article.

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