Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cannibal stars, planet formation and losing an unacknowledged space race

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - The European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory has seen vast clouds of superheated gas, whirling around miniature stars and escaping from being devoured by the stars' enormous gravitational fields - giving a new insight into the eating habits of the galaxy's "cannibal" stars. See article.
g Abodes - For scientists who spend time thinking about how planets form, life would be simpler if gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn didn’t exist. See article.
g Life - The microbes that inhabit deep-sea hydrothermal vent environments may be relics of the earliest life on Earth. Yet very little is known about these organisms, because it is so technically challenging to study them. Chris Scholin of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute plans to take on that challenge, in a project that may some day help scientists search for life on Mars or Europa. See article.
g Intelligence - A study from the April issue of Current Anthropology explores the evolution of handedness, one of few firm behavioral boundaries separating humans from other animals. As researchers find new cultural behaviors among chimpanzees and other primates, language is the only other characteristic accepted to be unique to humans, and both language and handedness appear to relate to the separation of functions between the two halves of the human brain, also known as lateralization. See article.
g Message - Since the invention of the radio, humans have been broadcasting signals into outer space. Other civilizations in our galaxy might be doing the same. They might even be deliberately sending out signals to find other civilizations. Someone out there may even be beaming a signal directly at the Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - Some congressmen believe the United States and China are in an unacknowledged space race that this country could lose if it doesn't spend more money on the civilian space program. See article.
g Learning - Scientists and a select group of teachers are coming to Fairbanks this summer to prepare for a mission to Mars. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Robert Silverberg’s novel “Collision Course,” published by Avalon in 1961.
g Aftermath - Here’s an intriguing paper published just last month and translated from German for Astrosociology.com: “Futurological Reflections on the Confrontation of Mankind with an Extraterrestrial Civilization”.

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