Monday, March 20, 2006

Cepheid envelopes, Stardust findings and music therapy

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer at Cerro Paranal, Chile, and the CHARA Interferometer at Mount Wilson, Calif., a team of French and North American astronomers has discovered envelopes around three Cepheids, including the Pole Star. This is the first time that matter is found surrounding members of this important class of rare and very luminous stars whose luminosity varies in a very regular way. Cepheids play a crucial role in cosmology, being one of the first "steps" on the cosmic distance ladder. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists have analyzed some of the particles captured by NASA's Stardust mission and returned to Earth earlier this year. And they've found a big surprise. Although the particles come from a comet that formed in the deep-frozen outer reaches of the solar system, they contain minerals that could only have been created near the sun. See article. For related story, see “Broken Comet On Its Way”.
g Life - In the first study to link social evolution to climate change, Cornell's Bryan Danforth and colleagues show that the social behavior of many sweat bees evolved simultaneously during a period of recent global warming, only 20 million to 22 million years ago. See article.
g Intelligence - A project led by a researcher from the University of Western Sydney has found that music therapy can help sick babies in intensive care maintain normal behavioral development, making them less irritable, upset and less likely to cry. See article.
g Message - What would be a sign of alien intelligence? Forget mathematics — try a simple, pure-tone radio signal. See article.
g Cosmicus - Humanity has the power to fill outer space with life. Today our solar system is filled with plasma, gas, dust, rock, and radiation - but very little life; just a thin film around the third rock from the Sun. It's time to change that. In the 1970's Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill with the help of NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University showed that we can build giant orbiting spaceships and live in them. These orbital space colonies can be wonderful places to live; about the size of a California beach town and endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, great wealth and true independence. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity, courtesy of NASA: “The Drake Equation”. Students estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy by first estimating the number of craters on the Moon and then by performing estimates of multiple-variable systems culminating in the use of the Drake Equation.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Ian McDonald’s “Chaga” (a.k.a. “Evolution's Shore”), published by Gollancz, 1995.
g Aftermath - If we do make contact with extraterrestrials, they’ll probably be a Type II or III Kardashev civilization. What’s a Kardashev civilization? See article. For related story on the Kardashev scale, see this article.

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