Sunday, April 16, 2006

Deflecting killer asteroid, another blow to anti-evolution arguments and low-gravity tourism

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - New findings are revealing how individual galaxies in galaxy clusters evolve over time, changing from chemically simple to complex and from spirals to smooth disks. See
g Abodes - If a large asteroid such as the recently identified 2004 VD17 – about 500 m in diameter with a mass of nearly 1000 million tons - collides with the Earth it could spell disaster for much of our planet. As part of ESA’s Near-Earth Object deflecting mission Don Quijote, three teams of European industries are now carrying out studies on how to prevent this. See
g Life - Using new techniques for resurrecting ancient genes, scientists have for the first time reconstructed the Darwinian evolution of an apparently "irreducibly complex" molecular system. See
g Intelligence - In a groundbreaking new study, researchers from the University of Michigan and Harvard University use cutting-edge brain-scanning technology to explore how different regions of the brain are activated when we think about certain qualities of brands and products. The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, is the first to use fMRI to assess consumer perceptions and has important implications for the use of metaphorical human-like traits in branding. See
g Message - Scientists are ramping up the search for extraterrestrial life with a powerful array of new telescopes and a refined sense of where to look within the vast expanses of our universe. See http://,0,64304
g Cosmicus - Virgin Galactic has collected $13 million in cash from some 157 people who have signed contracts to be flown to the edge of the atmosphere — about 110 kilometers — to experience about five minutes of low-gravity conditions, Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom resource courtesy of NASA: “Life on Earth … and Elsewhere?” This booklet contains 5 classroom activities for grades 5-10 spanning topics from "Defining Life," to "Determining the Chances of Extraterrestrial Life." See http://www.erg.pdf/.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Ivan Yefremov’s novel "Cor Serpentis (Serdtse Zmei)" ("Heart of the Serpent"), published in 1959.
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See Note: This article is from 2001.