Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Black hole bonanza, extinction hotspots and reusable space capsule

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Data from X-ray observatory surveys show that black holes are much more numerous and evolved differently than researchers would have expected, according to a Penn State astronomer. See article.
g Abodes - If our solar system has a Hell, it's Venus. The air is choked with foul and corrosive sulfur, literally brimstone, heaved from ancient volcanoes and feeding battery-acid clouds above. Although the second planet is a step farther from the sun than Mercury, a runaway greenhouse effect makes it hotter—indeed, it's the hottest of the nine planets, a toasty 900°F of baking basalt flats from equator to poles. All this under a crushing atmospheric pressure 90 times that of where you're sitting now. From the earthly perspective, a dead end. It must be lifeless. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Life - Using the newest geographic, biological, and phylogenetic databases for nearly 4,000 mammal species, researchers have identified 20 regions around the globe as potential extinction hotspots. See article.
g Intelligence - When faced with a new learning task, our brains replay events in reverse, much like a video on rewind, a new study suggests. See article.
g Message - SETI and the University of California at Berkeley decided they needed their own instrument, so they started developing the Allen Telescope Array. See article.
g Cosmicus - Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is asking NASA to help fund the demonstration of a reusable space capsule the El Segundo, Calif.-based company has been developing in secret with its own funding for the past 18 months. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site: Sci-fi Magazine, a WebQuest for high school students (science or literature)designed to ask students to critically analyze the use of science in a science fiction novel.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Jane Lindskold’s "Small Heroes," anthologized in “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? See article.

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