Saturday, February 04, 2006

Encounter with globular clusters, water ice on comets and our brains’ scattered record keeping

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe, emitting huge amounts of high-energy radiation. For decades their origin was a mystery. Scientists now believe they understand the processes that produce gamma-ray bursts. However, a new study suggests a previously overlooked source for some gamma-ray bursts: stellar encounters within globular clusters. See
g Abodes - Scientists for Deep Impact, the University of Maryland-led NASA mission that made history when it smashed into a comet this past July 4, have added another first to their growing list: the first finding of water ice on the surface of a comet. See For related story, see “Jupiter's Dos Equis” at http://www.astrobio.
g Life - Scientists have sequenced and compared the genomes of planktonic microbes living throughout the water column in the Pacific Ocean. The pioneering study yielded insight into the specialization of microbial communities at each depth--ranging from 40 to more than 13,000 feet. See
g Intelligence - Scientists have long suspected that the brain stores the memory of an event in more than one place. A new study provides solid evidence for this scattered record keeping. See http://
g Message - Several big hunts are seeking radio and laser emissions from other civilizations. From Project Phoenix to SETI@home, here's a complete rundown of all the searches now under way or recently conducted. See article.
g Cosmicus - Space station commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev completed a five-hour, 43-minute spacewalk Friday night, but problems "safing" a protective cable cutter on a key station component will complicate already planned repair work by the crew of the next shuttle mission. And in a disappointment to amateur radio enthusiasts, an old Russian spacesuit that was dumped overboard as part of an amateur radio project stopped transmitting shortly after its release. See
g Learning - As the bankruptcy of creation "science" becomes increasingly recognized, a new catch phrase, intelligent design, has been adopted by those who persist in their attempts to inject creationism into the science curriculum. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Paul Dellinger’s short story "Absolution," anthologized in “First Contact” (edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff and published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - What if we did contact another intelligent life form in the universe? Should we respond? What should we say? What traits best represent our humanity? Douglas Vakoch, the SETI Institute’s director of Interstellar Message Composition, is working with scientists, artists, linguists, composers, and others to imagine how to speak for our planet. Here’s a Web cast in which Vakoch describes his work:; scroll to “Talking with ET.”