Saturday, May 27, 2006

Galactic habitable zone, deep-sea volcanic eruption and radio waves over lasers

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Only around 10 percent of the Milky Way's stars reside in one recent definition of a galactic habitable zone with chemical and environmental conditions suitable for the development of complex Earth-type life. See
g Abodes - A NOAA-led team of ocean explorers returned this month with new and dramatic video and sound recordings of a long-term deep-sea volcanic eruption first discovered in 2004 on the Mariana Arc. The site, with red lava and spewing sulphur and rocks, has been seen erupting on three visits in two years and provides a unique opportunity for scientists to study underwater volcanic activity. See
g Life - When single-celled organisms such as sperm crack their whip-like appendages called flagella, the beating sets them in motion. But in certain colonies of green algae, flagella also boost nutrient uptake, according to surprising new research. See
g Intelligence - In a major new development in human evolutionary studies, researchers from the University of Cambridge argue that the dispersal of modern humans from Africa to South Asia may have occurred as recently as 70,000 years ago. See
g Message - While advanced civilizations might be tempted to use optical means such as lasers to send information between the stars, there are some good reasons that nearly all the major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiments are looking for radio waves instead. See
g Cosmicus - At a place known for space exploration, engineers have turned to a brave new world of ground transportation. See http://
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web site for kids: “Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?” In the program, kids get to search for ET — and learn some principles of science along the way. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Orson Scott Card’s novel “Ender's Game,” published by Tor in 1985.
g Aftermath - Reactions to the announcement that scientists had found evidence for primitive life in a meteorite from Mars have been intense. Some concerned the scientific evidence, some the implications of extraterrestrial life, especially if intelligent. Underlying these reactions are assumptions, or beliefs, which often have a religious grounding. The two divergent beliefs, for and against the plurality of life in the universe, are examined historically and through religious traditions, particularly the Judeo-Christian. This examination guides the formulation of the right relation between science and religion as one that respects the autonomy of each discipline, yet allows for each to be open to the discoveries of the other. Based on this relationship, perspectives from scientific exploration are developed that can help individuals to respect and cope with the new phenomena that science brings, whether these imply that we might be alone in the universe or co-creatures of God with the ancient Martians. See