Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pulsar collision, color of Pluto’s moons and how chemistry becomes biology

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Astronomers have witnessed a never-seen-before event in observations by ESA’s XMM-Newton spacecraft - a collision between a pulsar and a ring of gas around a neighboring star. See article.
g Abodes - The color of Pluto’s two recently discovered satellites are essentially the same neutral color as Pluto’s large moon, Charon, scientists say. See article.
g Life - How does chemistry become biology? Solving this question is important for research into life’s origins, and also for the search for life elsewhere in the universe. In this interview, Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University, describes a new comprehensive study that will try to figure out how chemical systems cross over into the world of the living. See article.
g Intelligence - A new, more robust analysis of recently derived human gene trees shows three distinct major waves of human migration out of Africa instead of just two, and statistically refutes — strongly — the 'Out of Africa' replacement theory. See article.
g Message - Most people see SETI as a project for merely listening for signals from other stars, but Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumas from the Defence Research Establishment Valcartier in Canada had other ideas in mind when they composed a message sent to the stars in 1999. See article. Note: This article is from 2000.
g Cosmicus - See NASA's Space Shuttle Program successfully fired a full-scale, full-duration reusable solid rocket technical evaluation motor earlier this month at a Utah test facility. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site for getting kids interested in astronomy: “Your Sky,” the interactive planetarium of the Web. You can produce maps in the forms described below for any time and date, viewpoint, and observing location. If you enter the orbital elements of an asteroid or comet, “Your Sky” will compute its current position and plot it on the map. Each map is accompanied by an ephemeris for the Sun, Moon, planets, and any tracked asteroid or comet. A control panel permits customisation of which objects are plotted, limiting magnitudes, colour scheme, image size, and other parameters. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Jack McDevitt’s novel The Hercules Text, published by Ace in 1986.
g Aftermath - The next social science to be created might be "exopsychology" — the study of behavior, attitudes, personalities and thoughts of alien beings. Although necessarily speculative, exopsychology might eventually be a critical link between humans and aliens. In the meantime, such a study could also provide the additional benefit of informing us about earthbound prejudices. See article.

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