Thursday, March 30, 2006

Giant protoplanets, hunt for life in our solar system and weightlessness’ effect

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - In an article to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, two British astronomers present new numerical simulations of how planetary systems form. They find that, in the early stages of planetary formation, giant protoplanets migrate inward in lockstep into the central star. See
g Abodes - Today, many of our efforts to find DNA’s alien equivalents focus on distant locales; for example, the use of space-borne telescopes to sort through the spectra of extrasolar worlds, looking for atmospheric gases that would be evidence of biology. But there’s also a backyard effort: the hunt for life nearby, in the solar system. See
g Life - Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have successfully converted an RNA enzyme (ribozyme) into a DNA enzyme (deoxyribozyme) through a process of accelerated in vitro evolution. The molecular conversion or transfer of both genetic information and catalytic function between these two different genetic systems, which are both based on nucleic acid-like molecules, is exactly what many scientists believe occurred during the very earliest period of earth's existence. See
g Intelligence - Memory enhancement, IQ boosters and drugs designed to attack genetic weaknesses may increase competition in the future and create a playing field that is far from equal, scientists at the World Economic Forum said. See
g Message - Humankind has been unintentionally transmitting signals into space - primarily high-frequency radio, television, and radar - for more than fifty years. Our earliest TV broadcasts have reached several thousand nearby stars, although any alien viewers would have to build a very large antenna (thousands of acres in size) to detect them. See
g Cosmicus - With President Bush talking up trips to the moon and Mars, and a new satellite circling the red planet, ever wonder what it feels like in space? The expensive way to find out is to hitch a ride on a parabolic aircraft trip, where you may get up to 90 "weightless" sessions of about 20 seconds each. But if you want to find out how space flight actually affects the body, just lie down and recline your head at a 6-degree angle below your feet for a few days. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat lesson plan for middle school astronomy: “The Life Cycle of Stars.” See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Nigel Robinson’s novel “First Contact,” published by Scholastic UK in 1994.
g Aftermath - What if, one day, Earth was contacted by an extraterrestrial civilization? How, as a planet, would we respond to their offer to interact? What if they asked, “Do you have a method in place, or even a policy that outlines how Earth will proceed now that contact has happened?” Here’s an organization that we believes we need in place legal protocol and has proposed the “Extraterrestrial Contact Act.” See