Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cosmic clocks, super-Earth and knock-kneed early humans

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astronomers using the 76-m Lovell radio telescope at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory have discovered a very strange pulsar that helps explain how pulsars act as 'cosmic clocks' and confirms theories put forward 37 years ago to explain the way in which pulsars emit their regular beams of radio waves - considered to be one of the hardest problems in astrophysics. Their research, now published in Science Express, reveals a pulsar that is only “on” for part of the time. The strange pulsar is spinning about its own axis and slows down 50% faster when it is “on” compared to when it is “off.” See article.
g Abodes - An international team of astronomers has discovered a "super-Earth" orbiting in the outer region of a solar system 9,000 light-years away. Weighing 13 times as much as Earth, with a temperature of minus 330 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet is one of the coldest ever discovered outside our solar system. See article.
g Life - Hunger for protein and salt, and a fear of cannibalism, drives the mass migration of Mormon crickets in western North America. See article.
g Intelligence - A re-examination of anklebones from ancient human ancestors indicates their gait was not as stable as previous research indicated. They were knock-kneed. See article.
g Message - "If you're sending a message to extraterrestrials, what you want to send is what's special about us and our planet — what is unusual," according to SETI astronomer Frank Drake. Read his latest essay.
g Cosmicus - After a grueling day climbing the mountains of the moon, astronauts will need a place to kick back and relax. Larry Toups of the Johnson Space Center talks with Astrobiology Magazine about the challenges of designing a dwelling for the future moonwalkers. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a wonderful Web site for kids: “Mysteries of Space and Time.” By the time a student finishes navigating this site, space should no longer be a mystery. Using clever graphics and offering games and other interactive features, this resource thoroughly covers black holes, the planets, and many anomalies of space. The lab section will be particularly helpful to astronomy students. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Mark J. McGarry’s "Harmony," anthologized in “Alien Encounters” (edited by Jan Finder).
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book "The SETI Factor," by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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