Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gamma radiation, meteorite bombardment of our moon and neuro-chips

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Are you losing sleep at night because you're afraid that all life on Earth will suddenly be annihilated by a massive dose of gamma radiation from the cosmos? Well, now you can rest easy. See http://
g Abodes - New age measurements of lunar rocks returned by the Apollo space missions have revealed that a surprising number of the rocks show signs of melting about 3.9 billion years ago, suggesting that the moon - and its nearby neighbor Earth - were bombarded by a series of large meteorites at that time. See http://www.astrobio.
g Life - Chemists at Oregon State University have pioneered a controversial theory about how supposedly-stable DNA bases can be pushed into a "dark state" in which they are highly vulnerable to damage from ultraviolet radiation - an idea that has challenged some of the most basic concepts of modern biochemistry. See
g Intelligence - The line between living organisms and machines has just become a whole lot blurrier. European researchers have developed "neuro-chips" in which living brain cells and silicon circuits are coupled together. See
g Message - Since the beginning of astronomical observation, science has been viewing light on a curve. In a galaxy filled with thousands of eclipsing binary stars, we've refined our skills by measuring the brightness or intensity of so-called variable star as a function of time. The result is known as a "light curve." Through this type of study, we've discovered size, distance and orbital speed of stellar bodies and refined our ability to detect planetary bodies orbiting distant suns. Here on Earth, most of the time it's impossible for us to resolve such small objects even with the most powerful of telescopes, because their size is less than one pixel in the detector. But new research should let us determine the shape of an object... like a ringed planet, or an orbiting alien space station. See http://
g Cosmicus - A rapid-turnaround launch system capable of hurling satellites or special purpose payloads into Earth orbit in as little as 48 hours is being touted by a major aerospace firm —Northrop Grumman Corporation. See
g Learning - Here’s a good Web site that gives an general overview of astrobiology for kids: “Astrocentral.” See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Isaac Asimov’s "Found!" originally published in the October 1978 Omni magazine.
g Aftermath - While formal principles have been adopted for the eventuality of detecting intelligent life in our galaxy, no such guidelines exist for the discovery of non-intelligent extraterrestrial life within the solar system. Current scientifically based planetary protection policies for solar system exploration address how to undertake exploration, but do not provide clear guidance on what to do if and when life is detected. Considering that Martian life could be detected under several different robotic and human exploration scenarios in the coming decades, it is appropriate to anticipate how detection of non-intelligent, microbial life could impact future exploration missions and activities, especially on Mars. See{B0D4BC0E-D59B-4CD09E79113953A58644}/m_race_guidelines.pdf.