Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Barnard’s Star, hot Jupiters and BabyBot

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Barnard's Star, an old and very dim red dwarf, was once thought to have two Jupiter-class planets. Might this star support habitable planets? See http://www.solstation.com/stars/barnards.htm.
g Abodes - Habitable, Earth-like planets can form even after giant planets have barrelled through their birthplace on epic migrations towards their host stars, new computer simulations suggest. The finding contradicts early ideas of how planets behave and suggests future space missions should search for terrestrial planets near known "hot Jupiters." See http://www.newscientistspace.com/article/dn8928-hot-jupiters-do-not-rule-out-alien-earths.html.
g Life - Comfortable living is not why so many different life forms seem to converge at the warmer areas of the planet. See http://
g Intelligence - BabyBot, a robot modeled on the torso of a two year-old child, is helping researchers take the first, tottering steps towards understanding human perception, and could lead to the development of machines that can perceive and interact with their environment. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop
g Message - Here’s an intriguing hypothesis concerning the nature of extraterrestrial messages to Earth. It is based on the assumptions that aliens exist in abundance in the galaxy, that they are benevolent toward Earth-based life forms and that the lack of any human detection of extraterrestrials is due to an embargo designed to prevent any premature disclosure of their existence. It is argued that any embargo not involving alien force must be a leaky one designed to allow a gradual disclosure of the alien message and its gradual acceptance on the part of the general public over a very long time-scale. The communication may take the form of what is now considered magic, and may therefore be misinterpreted as “magic” or a hoax by contemporary governments and scientists. See http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgibin/nphbib_querybibcode=1986QJR
g Cosmicus - Podcast: In Part II of Radio Astrobiology’s in-depth interview with the director of science for the European Space Agency, host Simon Mitton discusses astrobiology and its exploration frontiers. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop=modload
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity that examines if yeast, a common yet tenacious microbe, can survive boiling water, salt, UV radiation and citric acid? Students find out for themselves by creating "Planets in a Bottle" which illustrate extreme conditions on other worlds. See http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/msad16mar99_1a.htm.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Theodore Sturgeon’s short story "To Marry Medusa," appearing in the Aug. 1958 issue of Galaxy.
g Aftermath - Book alert: “Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications, by Steven J. Dick (editor), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail//1890151424/qid