Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Helix-shaped nebula, ultraviolet vision and hunting old spacecraft on the Moon

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Magnetic forces at the center of the galaxy have twisted a nebula into the shape of DNA, a new study reveals. See article.
g Abodes - A study of a meteorite that fell in Egypt nearly 95 years ago may offer clues as to the search for possible life on Mars. Researchers studying the meteorite that originated from Mars found a series of microscopic tunnels within the object that mimic the size, shape and distribution to tracks left on Earth rocks by the feeding frenzy of bacteria. See article. For related stories, see “Mars meteorite similar to bacteria-etched Earth rocks”; and “MRO Test Snaps”.
g Life - Work reported this week provides new evidence that marsupials, like primates, have functional color vision based on three different types of color photoreceptor cones - but unlike primates, a component of marsupial color vision includes sensitivity to ultraviolet wavelengths. See article.
g Intelligence - The human brain to mitigate foul taste through a ruse of anticipation. Work conducted at the UW-Madison Waisman Center using state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques and distasteful concoctions of quinine on a cohort of college students reveals in detail how the brain responds to a manipulation intended to mitigate an unpleasant experience. See article.
g Message - While advanced civilizations might be tempted to use optical means such as lasers to send information between the stars, there are some good reasons that nearly all the major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiments are looking for radio waves instead. See article.
g Cosmicus - Pinpointing old spacecraft and artificial impact craters on the Moon is not only a curatorial courtesy, but also can generate important science. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site for budding astronomers: StarChild.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Hayford Pierce’s short story "Mail Supremacy", anthologized in March 1975’s Analog.
g Aftermath - Scientists such as the SETI Institute’s John Billingham and Jill Tarter have taken the lead in planning for the day we might receive a signal from life beyond Earth. Working with diplomats and space lawyers, they have helped develop protocols that guide the activities of SETI scientists who think they may have detected extraterrestrial intelligence. See article. Note: This story is a couple of years old.

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