Friday, April 14, 2006

Merging black holes, Venusian vortex and next Mars lander

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 - A pair of supermassive black holes in the distant universe are intertwined and spiraling toward a merger that will create a single super-supermassive black hole capable of swallowing billions of stars, according to a new study by astronomers. See article.
g Abodes - The latest images from Venus show a previously suspected dark vortex over the south pole of the planet. See article.
g Life - The changing climate of the Holocene would have had little bearing on the survival of the mammoth ecosystem, a researcher contends. See article.
g Intelligence - Psychologists at the University of Manchester have set up a 'BabyLab' within the campus, to try and learn more about how babies acquire knowledge. See article.
g Cosmicus - The next Mars lander is undergoing assembly and testing, being readied for departure next year to explore the Martian arctic. This probe is equipped to dig deep, quite literally, into an ongoing mystery—the history of water on Mars and the planet’s potential as an extraterrestrial address for life. See article. For related story, see “Soggy Sands Of Mars?” For related story, see “Broken Wheel Forces NASA Rover to Seek Alternate Winter Site on Mars”.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Cherry Wilder’s "The Ark of James Carlyle," published in “New Writers in SF 24” (1974).
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See reviews.

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