Thursday, March 09, 2006

Metal-rich hydrogen cloud, killer carbon cycle and replaying the history of life

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Astronomers, using the unique capabilities offered by the high-resolution spectrograph on European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, have found a metal-rich hydrogen cloud in the distant universe. The result may help to solve the missing metal problem and provides insight on how galaxies form. See http://
g Abodes - New research into a missing link in climatology shows that the Earth was not overcome by a greenhouse period when dinosaurs dominated, but experienced rapid fluctuations in temperature and sea level change that resulted in a balance of the global carbon cycle. See
g Life - If the history of life were to play out again from the beginning, it would have a similar plot and outcomes, although with a different cast and timing, argues UC Davis paleontologist Geerat Vermeij in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See
g Intelligence - Any parent will tell you kids can be depressing at times. A new study shows that raising them is a lifelong challenge to your mental health. See
. For related story, see “Postpartum depression might be predictable” at
g Message - Scientists are ramping up the search for extraterrestrial life with a powerful array of new telescopes and a refined sense of where to look within the vast expanses of our universe. See,
g Cosmicus - Space Adventures has announced plans for a new suborbital spacecraft and spaceports near major airports in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore that, it hopes, will draw eager customers seeking the space experience. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat lesson for middle school students about extraterrestrials, courtesy of the Discovery channel: http://school.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Morton Klass’ "Earthman's Burden," originally published in “Astounding” magazine’s May 1954 issue.
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See