Friday, April 28, 2006

Neutron star crust, Venus Exploration Analysis Group and how fish evolved into land creatures

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 - Scientists using NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer have estimated the depth of the crust on a neutron star, the densest object known in the universe. The crust, they say, is close to a mile deep and so tightly packed that a teaspoon of this material would weigh about 10 million tons on Earth. See article.
g Abodes - The Venus Exploration Analysis Group was established by NASA in July 2005 to identify scientific priorities and strategy for exploration of Venus. VEXAG is currently composed of two co-chairs and two focus groups. The focus groups will actively solicit input from the scientific community. Here’s its Web site.
g Life - You might think a catfish on land would fare as well as an elephant on roller-skates, but a new study reveals they slither around and adeptly catch insect meals [Video]. The finding helps scientists imagine how ancient fish made their first hunting trips ashore prior to evolving into land creatures. See article.
g Intelligence - Claims of a pre-Clovis human occupation in the Americas have been around for decades. By the 1980s, dozens of such sites had been reported, some estimated to be as much as 200,000 years old. See article.
g Message - For more than 80 years, we’ve been sending radio (and eventually television) transmissions into space, allowing anyone in space to hear war reports from London, “I Love Lucy” reruns and our latest election results. So wouldn’t hearing aliens be as simple as turning on the radio? Here’s why not.
g Cosmicus - It is misleading to think of today’s "space program" as a single-source activity with NASA as the center of the universe. First of all, the multi-nation character of space exploration has long dethroned that notion. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat astrobiology lesson plan for teachers about “Life in the Universe”, courtesy the United Kingdom. It includes activities.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Anne McCaffrey’s novel “The Rowan,” published by Ace in 1991.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Award-winning author Paul Davies, an eminent scientist who writes like a science fiction novelist, explores the ramifications of successful contact with alien life in his fascinating book, "Are We Alone? Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life." "The discovery of a single extraterrestrial microbe," he writes, "would drastically alter our world view and change our society as profoundly as the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. It could truly be described as the greatest scientific discovery of all time." Though a decade old, the book still is a great read. See reviews.

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