Sunday, April 09, 2006

High-energy gamma ray bursts, studying Mars via Earth and how the brain encodes memories

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Almost 40 years have passed since top secret nuclear weapon warning satellites accidentally discovered bursts of high energy gamma rays coming from space. Although many thousands of gamma ray bursts have since been detected, the origin and nature of these bursts is still not well understood. See article.
g Abodes - Nathalie Cabrol will never get to Mars, but the 42-year-old NASA planetary scientist is doing the next best thing. She's climbed almost 20,000 feet into the thin air of an Andes mountain peak, dived into some of the world's highest lakes and sent a robot across a windswept Chilean desert -all to learn how life once might have existed, or may still exist, on the Red Planet. See article.
g Life - Much of what scientists learn about the evolution of Earth's first animals will have to be gleaned from spherical embryos fossilized under very specific conditions, according to a new study by Indiana University Bloomington and University of Bristol researchers in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See article.
g Intelligence - Through a clever experimental design, Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists have validated decades of experiments to show how learning and memory may be encoded in a living animal. The research, published in the March issue of Neuron, identifies for the first time the specific neural connections that strengthen as an animal's brain responds to new experiences. See article. For related story, see “Conscious And Unconscious Memory Linked In Storing New Information”.
g Message - Just how does SETI work? Here’s a good primer for those looking to get a basic overview.
g Cosmicus - A robotic space plane was dropped today at high altitude, touching down under autonomous control, but encountered difficulties on landing and rolled off the end of a runway. See article.
g Learning - There may be numerous intelligent civilizations on planets throughout our galaxy. That's the hypothesis driving SETI research. We seek evidence of extraterrestrial technology using optical and radio telescopes to search for signals that emanate from other civilized worlds. These places are far, far away. But, when discussing the search with school children, they often simply ask, "Why don't we just go there?" This can be a teachable moment. See article. Note: This article is from Dec. 2003.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Dorothy Guin Tompkins’s short story "Gift," anthologized in “Alien Encounters” (edited by Jan Finder).
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising form the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See article.

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