Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cool methane brown dwarf, meteors’ organic particles and ‘After Contact’

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - A team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope announced the detection of a cool methane brown dwarf in orbit around the recently discovered, red dwarf star SCR 1845-6357. See http://www.solstation.com/stars/new-obj.htm.
g Abodes - Like an interplanetary spaceship carrying passengers, meteorites have long been suspected of ferrying relatively young ingredients of life to our planet. Using new techniques, scientists have discovered that meteorites can carry other, much older passengers as well - primitive, organic particles that originated billions of years ago. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.
g Life - Sex is an expensive and risky business. It steals time and drains precious nutrient resources. And each act of reproduction runs the risk of messing up carefully crafted genetic blueprints. So why do we do it? See http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/050330_sex_good.html.
g Intelligence - Could a technologically oriented intelligence as likely arise from a predatory species as a non-predatory one? An anthropologist explores the possibilities at http://holtz.org/Library/Natural%20Science/Predator%20Prey%20Models%20&%20Contact%20Consids.htm.
g Message - A number of searches for extraterrestrial intelligence actually have occurred, are ongoing and are planned. Here’s one of the more famous ones: Project BETA, at Harvard University. See http://seti.harvard.edu/seti/beta.html.
g Cosmicus - In this interview, Charles Cockell talks about studying microbes in the harsh conditions of outer space. He also explains why in the future, humans must expand our horizons outwards into that final frontier. See http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.phpop
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of DiscoverSchool.com: “Extraterrestrials.” In the activity, a digital radio message, intended to alert any intelligent life in space to the existence of intelligent life on Earth, has been electronically transmitted into space by the Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico. Students must ensure the message is effective by showing that the senders (humans from Earth) are capable of advanced thinking — but it must not depend on the ability of extraterrestrials to understand any Earth language. See http://school.discovery.com/lessonplans/
g Imagining - Watch any science fiction film or series, and all the aliens are humanoid. Of course they are, the actors under the costumes are all human. But is this realistic? Surely any number of exotic and bizarre shapes and sizes are possibly, just look at the myriad of invertebrates that inhabit this world. See http://members.lycos.co.uk/thepixie/sfrpg/sf-essay.htm.
g Aftermath - Here’s an interesting book for some astrobiological reading: “After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life” by Albert A. Harrison. See http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/
for some reviews.