Monday, April 10, 2006

Interstellar dust knots, paleoclimate melts and Ice Age dancing blues

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 - The yearly ritual of spring cleaning clears a house of dust as well as dust "bunnies," those pesky dust balls that frolic under beds and behind furniture. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed similar dense knots of dust and gas in our Milky Way Galaxy. This cosmic dust, however, is not a nuisance. It is a concentration of elements that are responsible for the formation of stars in our galaxy and throughout the universe. See article.
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 article.
g Life - Scientists from The University of Tokyo announce today that gibbons, arboreal primates that inhabit the jungles of Southeast Asia, do not carry a major obesity gene that is present in the genomes of all other primates, including humans. This omission is due to a genetic mis-shuffling event that occurred approximately 25 million years ago. Their results are reported in the April issue of the scientific journal Genome Research. See article.
g Intelligence - Some people are naturally graceful on the dance floor, while others seem burdened by two inept left feet. Blame it on the Ice Age. See article.
g Message - While advanced civilizations might be tempted to use optical means such as lasers to send information between the stars, there are some good reasons that nearly all the major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiments are looking for radio waves instead. See article.
g Cosmicus - The artificial gravity generator is probably the science-fictional pseudo-science device most disliked by physicists. Used as a plot device as early as 1930 by Olaf Stapleton, artificially produced gravity fields make space flight a lot easier and more bearable for everyone. But it's impossible, right? See article.
g Learning - How is the scientific method used in archeology? Here’s a primer.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Harry Turtledove’s novel, “Noninterference,” published by Del Rey in 1988.
g Aftermath - The chances are there's life out there, but any messages could be thousands of years old and indecipherable. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.

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