Saturday, February 11, 2006

Star formation, 3-D fossils and returning to the moon

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - New findings from a large survey of galaxies suggest that star formation is largely driven by the supply of raw materials, rather than by galactic mergers that trigger sudden bursts of star formation. Stars form when clouds of gas and dust collapse under the force of gravity, and the study supports a scenario in which exhaustion of a galaxy's gas supply leads to a gradual decline in the star-formation rate. See
g Abodes - UCLA paleobiologist J. William Schopf and colleagues have produced 3-D images of 650-million to 850-million-year-old fossils preserved in rocks. The achievement might be used if a future space mission to Mars brings rocks back to Earth. See
g Life - A hardy microbe that can withstand huge doses of radiation is most likely to have evolved this ability on the Red Planet, argue scientists. See
. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Intelligence - New research indicates that an area of the brain thought to act in reward circuitry may represent a phase in visual processing during which sexual orientation modulates how we perceive individual faces. See
g Message - The Allen Telescope Array, formerly known as the One Hectare Telescope, is a joint effort by the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley to construct a radio interferometer that will be dedicated to astronomical and simultaneous search for extra-terrestrial intelligence observations. It is being constructed at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles northeast of San Francisco, California and will be composed of 350 antennas at completion. See
g Cosmicus - ATK Thiokol is preparing to begin work on a more powerful variant of the space shuttle solid-rocket motor it has long produced as part of a streamlined NASA exploration plan that would land astronauts on the Moon in early 2017, a year earlier than previously envisioned. See For related stories, see “'Man in the moon' origin may have been found” at and “Lunar Liquid Mirror Telescope Studied By NASA” at
g Learning - A problematic issue of general science education is how to present the diverse subjects in the sciences within the limited allocated time in an integrative manner. It should be clear that it is important to instill in non-science majors a lasting interest in, enthusiasm for, and an understanding of fundamental concepts in science, which any modern person should have. The importance of this is particularly relevant when considering that some of these students will become administrators and political leaders with a profound influence on how scientific research will be pursued and funded in the future. See Note: This article is from 2005.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read James Corrick’s short story "A Perfect Day," anthologized in “Alien Encounters,” (edited by Jan Finder).
g Aftermath - What would be the affect on humanity following contact with alien life? Portions of a Brookings Institute report offer some insights. See for either the entire report or the relevant excerpts.