Thursday, March 23, 2006

Optical vortex mask, fossilized spiders and language processing

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences is developing devices that block out starlight, allowing astronomers to study planets in nearby solar systems. The core of this technology is an "optical vortex mask" that spins light like wind in a hurricane. See
g Abodes - The retreat of a massive ice sheet that once covered much of northern Europe has been described for the first time, and researchers believe it may provide a sneak preview of how present-day ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will act in the face of global warming. See
g Life - The study of fossilized spiders from the Baltic (Poland) and the Dominican (Caribbean) regions has revealed new insights into the ecologies of spiders dating back to the Cenozoic period. See
g Intelligence - Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have discovered that two areas in the human brain are responsible for different types of language processing requirements. See
g Message - Here’s an article in which Dave DeBoer, project engineer for the Allen Telescope Array, discusses what the unique telescope will offer. The development of the Allen Telescope Array is marked by many innovations crafted with the express purpose of building a world-class state-of-the-art astronomical facility at a fraction of the price of existing radio telescopes. See Note: This article is from October 2003.
g Cosmicus - To travel among the stars, we must figure out how to survive the harsh radiation of outer space. Studies of radiation-resistant microbes on Earth provide some illuminating insights. See
g Learning - How are key concepts of astrobiology treated in science fiction? See Note: This article is from 2001 and intended to be used as part of a classroom lesson.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Donald Moffitt’s novel “The Jupiter Theft,” published by Del Rey in 1977.
g Aftermath - Donald E. Tarter, a consultant in space policy and technology assessment, makes a persuasive case for developing the protocols and technology to reply to an extraterrestrial signal before news of the discovery is made public, in his article, “Advocating an Immediate Response.” Delay could be costly as technologically advanced fringe groups or ambitious nations could attempt to score a propaganda victory by being the first to reply, creating a mixed and perhaps embarrassing first message. This could be avoided by settling on a quick and simple message to let the extraterrestrial source know that we had received their message. See Note: This report is from 1996.

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