Thursday, February 16, 2006

‘Our Cosmic Habitat,’ seeing through Venus’ veil and the geniuses behind a genius

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 - Science can now tell the story of the universe from quark soup to the emergence of life on the third rock from the Sun. And no one is more capable of doing so than Sir Martin Rees, leading British astrophysicist and Astronomer Royal. He is articulate, witty, and authoritative, and he has the intellectual breadth to cover this enormous range in space, time, and subject matter.
Case in point: His science book “Our Cosmic Habitat”.
g Abodes - The planet Venus is best known for the thick layers of clouds that veil its surface from view by telescopes on Earth. But the veil has holes, and a New Mexico State University scientist plans on using a solar telescope to peer through them to study the weather on Venus. See article.
g Life - Scientists have forced a little evolution in the laboratory, controlling whether a caterpillar becomes green or black. See article.
g Intelligence - The reality is that behind many scientific geniuses, there is at least one other genius, and often a number of them. See
g Message - A number of searches for extraterrestrial intelligence actually have occurred, are ongoing and are planned. Here’s one of the more famous ones: Project BETA, at Harvard University.
g Cosmicus - NASA is preparing to launch a new oxygen generation system to the International Space Station that uses water to generate breathable oxygen for crew members. The system will be installed in a cargo compartment later this month for a possible May launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery. See article.
g Learning - Could a new world be discovered with a department store telescope having only a small 4-inch diameter lens? It was a little more than a decade ago that the world's most powerful telescopes could just begin to discover extrasolar planets, but with over 120 new worlds found, the technique seems primed to become general. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Barbara Delaplace’s "Black Ops" in “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW in 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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