Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Stars born alone, origin of iron meteorites and chimps fail altruism test

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - For more than 200 years, astronomers thought that most of the stars in our galaxy had stellar companions. But a new study suggests the bulk of them are born alone and never have stellar company. See
g Abodes - Iron meteorites are probably the surviving fragments of the long-lost asteroid-like bodies that formed the Earth and other nearby rocky planets, according to researchers from Southwest Research Institute and Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur in Nice, France. See
g Life - An expedition to one of Asia's most isolated jungles - in the mist-shrouded Foja Mountains of western New Guinea - discovered a virtual ''Lost World" of new species, giant flowers, and rare wildlife that was unafraid of humans. See
g Intelligence - In a new study, chimpanzees from the Wolfgang Koehler Primate Research Centre in Leipzig were given a choice: By pulling on a rope they could either deliver food to another chimpanzee or they could deliver it to an empty room. In both cases, the chimpanzee pulling the rope did not receive any food itself. Contrary to initial expectations the chimpanzees behaved neither altruistic nor spiteful. According to the researchers, both characteristics therefore seem to be human-specific. See
g Message - Here’s a quick, easy to understand primer to SETI’s radio searches and the Fermi Paradox: http://shayol.bartol.
g Cosmicus - NASA’s back to the Moon adventure is being kick-started by the building of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. That probe is the opening volley of spacecraft in response to President George W. Bush’s multi-billion dollar Vision for Space Exploration that he outlined in January 2004. See
g Learning - Many at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation's largest gathering of scientists, spoke out over the weekend against what they called religious pressure in public schools. And they enlisted the help of about 300 teachers from across the Midwest who attended the conference to discuss the national debate over evolution. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Rosemary Edgehill’s short story "We Have Met the Enemy," anthologized in “First Contact” (edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff and published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See