Sunday, March 12, 2006

Three Out of Africa migrations, new tree of life and mission to Pluto

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Astronomers studying a disk of material circling a still-forming star inside our galaxy have found a tantalizing result - the inner part of the disk is orbiting the protostar in the opposite direction from the outer part of the disk. See article.
g Abodes - An international team of scientists, supported by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, reunited at the University of Bremen to analyze a trove of coral fossil samples retrieved from Tahitian waters during October and November. A few weeks ago, led by chief scientists from France and Japan, the science party started their yearlong analysis of 632 meters of fossil material retrieved from 37 boreholes drilled beneath the seafloor. The initial conclusion is that the IODP Tahiti Sea Level Expedition has assembled the most accurate physical evidence available today of changes in sea level during the last deglaciation, including a full record of temperature and salinity changes in the southern Pacific. See article.
g Life - In 1870 the German scientist Ernst Haeckel mapped the evolutionary relationships of plants and animals in the first “tree of life.” Since then scientists have continuously redrawn and expanded the tree-adding microorganisms and using modern molecular data, yet, many parts of the tree have remained unclear. Now a group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg has developed a computational method that resolves many of the open questions and produced what is likely the most accurate tree ever. The study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Science, gives some intriguing insights into the origins of bacteria and the last common universal ancestor of all life on earth today. See article.
g Intelligence - A short list of scientific rules for the game of love is emerging. Some are as clearly defined as the prominent, feminine eyes of a supermodel or the desirable hips of a well-built man. Other rules work at the subconscious level, motivating us to action for evolutionary reasons that are tucked inside clouds of infatuation. See article.
g Message - The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - Alan Stern waited more than 17 years to see NASA launch a science mission to Pluto, and now that a spacecraft is safely on its way he knows much more time will pass before the data starts flowing back to Earth from that distant region of the solar system. See article.
g Learning - Do you have a children with a question about a topic in astronomy or about an object in space? You may find the answer under one of the categories at “Ask an Astronomer for Kids”.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Stephen Leigh’s novel “Alien Tongue,” published by Bantam Spectra in 1991.
g Aftermath - The U.S. and other world governments already have detailed secret plans for first contact. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

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