Thursday, February 09, 2006

Millisecond pulsar, exploring an impact crater and ‘What’s Out There’

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - A team of U.S. and Australian astronomers for the first time has precisely measured the mass of a millisecond pulsar - a tiny, dead star spinning hundreds of times every second. This result is of special interest because it gives new insight into the production of millisecond pulsars and may shed light on the laws that govern nuclear matter. See
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g Abodes - Travel with Aaron Gronstal on a drilling expedition in Chesapeake Bay, the site of a 35 million-year-old impact crater. This portion of his journal is the final part of a 4-part series. See http://
g Life - A fundamental process that has puzzled researchers for many years has been explained by UK scientists. Some simple plants that are crucial in maintaining the balance of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere require vitamin B12 to grow properly but it has been a mystery to scientists why some types needed external sources and others did not. Now researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Kent have discovered that half of all algae have a dependent but beneficial relationship with bacteria that make the vitamin for them. See
g Intelligence - Research on the XPod, a mobile music player that senses activity and emotion, will be presented at Proceedings of the International Conference on Mobile Technology, Applications and Systems later this year. See
g Message - While advanced civilizations might be tempted to use optical means such as lasers to send information between the stars, there are some good reasons that nearly all the major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiments are looking for radio waves instead. See
g Cosmicus - When it comes to Russian spacesuits, what goes up, most often does not come down... at least not in one piece. See
g Learning - Book alert: “What's Out There,” by Mary K. Baumann, Will Hopkins, Loralee Nolletti, Michael Soluri, is a breathtaking photographic tour of the universe featuring more than 180 exquisite, cutting-edge images. The photos, taken by the newest space explorers - highly sophisticated telescopes, probes, and satellites - are arranged in A to Z format with thorough yet compact text blocks that elucidate the phenomena in a refreshingly concise and accessible manner. From asteroids to pulsars to white dwarfs, each entry consists of bold photos and descriptive text. A data box accompanying each picture provides fascinating details about how, where, and when each shot was taken. In the back of the book are biographies of the space probes and telescopes, along with an essay on color imagery in space and a glossary. Co-author Michael Soluri took some time to answer a few questions about how the book came to be and how we look at the universe at
g Imagining - Many science fiction story lines involve alien life forms. From a literary prospective, aliens often serve as metaphors for something more familiar. From a practical prospective, they make stories more interesting and TV more eye-catching. But what of scientific accuracy? A professor offers his advice about "How to Build an Alien" at
g Aftermath - Could religions survive contact with extraterrestrials? The Medieval Church didn't think so, as the discovery 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? For a discussion, check out this past program of SETI’s “Are We Alone?” at Note: An mp3 player is required to play the audio files; you can download one at the site for free.