Monday, May 01, 2006

Fossil galaxy clusters, Antarctica turning to ice and moons of Jupiter

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Taking advantage of the high sensitivity of ESA's XMM-Newton and the sharp vision of NASA's Chandra X-Ray space observatories, astronomers have studied the behavior of massive fossil galaxy clusters, trying to find out how they find the time to form. See
g Abodes - Ancient fish teeth are yielding clues about when Antarctica became the icy continent it is today, highlighting how ocean currents affect climate change. See For related story, see “Satellite Helps Detect Massive Rivers Under Antarctica” at
g Life - The octopus arm is extremely flexible. Thanks to this flexibility - the arm is said to possess a virtually infinite number of "degrees of freedom" - the octopus is able to generate a vast repertoire of movements that is unmatched by the human arm. Nonetheless, despite the huge evolutionary gap and morphological differences between the octopus and vertebrates, the octopus arm acts much like a three-jointed vertebrate limb when the octopus performs precise point-to-point movements. See http://www.sci
g Intelligence - Although the human brain is skilled at facial recognition and discrimination, new research from Georgetown University Medical Center suggests that the brain may not have developed a specific ability for “understanding faces” but instead uses the same kind of pattern recognition techniques to distinguish between people as it uses to search for differences between other groups of objects, such as plants, animals and cars. See
g Message - Book alert: The father-son team of David E. Fisher and Marshall Jon Fisher brings the study of extraterrestrial life down to earth in “Strangers in the Night: Brief History of Life on Other Worlds,” an informative and entertaining book. In the anecdotal style that is their hallmark, the Fishers trace humankind’s attempts to discover life on other worlds. This informative and entertaining book tells the story of humankind’s attempts throughout history to discover extraterrestrial life. See
g Cosmicus - The concept of solar power satellites, or SPS, first put forward in the 1960s, is still not widely known by the general public. For example at many public exhibitions about Energy, SPS is not even mentioned. This is mainly because very little funding has been spent on SPS research to date - about 1/1000 of 1 percent of the about $1 trillion that governments have spent subsidizing the development of nuclear power over the past 50 years. See For related story, see “SPS 2000” at (Note: this latter article is from the mid-1990s).
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Moons of Jupiter.” In this lesson plan, students build model rovers to learn about engineering and evidence of alien life. See http://www.adlerplanet/
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Robert Silverberg’s novel “Tower of Glass,” published by Scribner's in 1970.
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See