Sunday, April 23, 2006

Comet data, spider threads plus thickening and thinning brains

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Over the past five years, three space missions - Deep Impact, Deep Space 1 and Stardust - have provided unprecedented information about comets. However, rather than clearing up the true nature of comets, the sometimes conflicting data from these missions have scientists questioning almost everything they thought they knew about these fascinating, and potentially dangerous, objects. See article.
g Abodes - As mankind spreads out through the universe, what creatures might he encounter and where? Life on Earth has evolved into a myriad of forms, capable of surviving in some very harsh conditions, but it all started in the oceans. Early life and its precursors were very fragile molecules without the survival mechanisms to protect them that cells and beasts are. See article.
g Life - The extraordinary properties of spider's thread are like a blessing for researchers working on polymers. However, the amazing twisting properties it displays are still not very well understood. How can one explain the fact that a spider suspended by a thread remains completely motionless, instead of rotating like a climber does at the end of a rope? See article.
g Intelligence - Youth with superior IQ are distinguished by how fast the thinking part of their brains thickens and thins as they grow up, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health have discovered. MRI scans showed that their brain's outer mantle, or cortex, thickens more rapidly during childhood, reaching its peak later than in their peers — perhaps reflecting a longer developmental window for high-level thinking circuitry. It also thins faster during the late teens, likely due to the withering of unused neural connections as the brain streamlines its operations. See article.
g Message - Australian scientists also are conducting a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Here’s an overview of their effort and facilities.
g Cosmicus - Exploration of space now and in the future depends on both human and robotic skills. However, according to a leading scientist, there is need to fortify and rebalance the funding between the two. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web site for kids: “Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?” In the program, kids get to search for ET — and learn some principles of science along the way. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Gordon R. Dickson’s short story, "In The Bone," published in the October 1966 Worlds of IF magazine.
g Aftermath - How would humans react the day after ET landed? A nationwide survey by the Roper Organization in 1999 found that the following: "... one out of four Americans think most people would "totally freak out and panic" if such evidence were confirmed. See article.

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