Saturday, March 11, 2006

Anomalous cosmic rays, Saharan impact crater and toxoplasma infection

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - When Voyager 1 finally crossed the "termination shock" at the edge of interstellar space in December 2004, space physicists anticipated the long-sought discovery of the source of anomalous cosmic rays. These cosmic rays, among the most energetic particle radiation in the solar system, are thought to be produced at the termination shock - the boundary at the edge of the solar system where the million-mile-per-hour solar wind abruptly slows. A mystery unfolded instead when Voyager data showed 20 years of predictions to be wrong. See article.
g Abodes - Researchers from Boston University have discovered the remnants of the largest crater of the Great Sahara of North Africa, which may have been formed by a meteorite impact tens of millions of years ago. See article.
g Life - New research into a missing link in climatology shows that the Earth was not overcome by a greenhouse period when dinosaurs dominated, but experienced rapid fluctuations in temperature and sea level change that resulted in a balance of the global carbon cycle. See article.
g Intelligence - Half of the world's human population is infected with Toxoplasma, parasites in the body—and the brain. See article.
g Message - Put yourself in the situation of the aliens, out there somewhere in the galaxy. They surmise that Earth looks promising for the emergence of intelligent life one day, but they have no idea when. There would be little point in beaming radio messages in this direction for eons in the vague hope that one day radio technology would be developed here and someone would decide to tune in, says one astrobiologist. See article. Note: this article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - A robotic mission to study two of the solar system's largest asteroids has been killed by NASA after months of uncertainty while extensive reviews probed the mission's funding and technical credentials. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a great classroom resource guide, courtesy of NASA: NAI's team at NASA Ames Research Center has created Chapter 4 of the Yellowstone Resources and Issues Guide which tells all about thermophiles, their habitats in the park, and their relationship to both the history of life on Earth, and the search for life elsewhere. The guide is used to train park naturalists and rangers, and it can also serve as a valuable resource when teaching about extremophiles and astrobiology in the classroom. Download your copy.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Fritz Leiber’s “The Wanderer,” published by Ballantine in 1964.
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising form the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See article.

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