Thursday, May 11, 2006

Monstrous stars, exploring Europa and evolutionary biomarkers

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Scientists have secured their first look at the birth of monstrous stars that shine 100,000 times more brightly than the Sun, thanks to the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory. See
g Abodes - Europa remains a tantalizing target for astrobiologists - but what would be the best way to investigate the mysterious moon? In this interview, Karl Hibbitts describes a proposed hyper-velocity impactor that would smack right into Europa’s outer ice shell. See
g Life - In view of the substantial challenges ahead in instrumentation and trials on Earth analogs, we must now begin to plan a second generation of feasible evolutionary experiments with whole microorganisms. In those new experiments universal evolutionary biomarkers should be searched for. See
g Intelligence - Humans have an uncanny ability to skim through text, instantly recognizing words by their shape--even though writing developed only about 6000 years ago - long after humans evolved. Thus, neuroscientists have hotly debated whether an area of the cortex called the Visual Word Form Area is truly a specific and necessary area for recognizing words. See http://www.
g Message - A lot of science fiction doesn’t offer a particularly accurate description of SETI. Here’s one piece that does: Norman Spinrad’s short story "The Helping Hand," anthologized in “Full Spectrum 3,” (edited by Lou Aronica, et al., 1991, Bantam). In this story, an alien message unites humanity, but turns out to be a benevolent lie.
g Cosmicus - The first accommodation in orbit available to the public won't be a real "hotel" - it's more likely just to be rooms in pre-fabricated cylindrical modules connected together, because this is the easiest way to start. However, it will gradually grow in quantity and quality to include more elaborate facilities constructed in orbit - eventually including full-scale hotels and even apartment blocks. Starting at thousands of dollars per night, costs will fall continually as the volume grows, and it's likely that guests will choose to stay for longer and longer. See
g Learning - Are you thinking of a career in SETI? Get the low-down at Note: This article is from 1998.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye’s “Treaty at Doona,” published by Ace in 1994.
g Aftermath - What affect would the discovery of alien life have on the story-telling genre that inspires the search for it — science fiction? See