Thursday, May 04, 2006

Planet formation, shear waves and social structures to aid survival

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - For scientists who spend time thinking about how planets form, life would be simpler if gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn didn’t exist. See
g Abodes - To truly understand some of the movement we see at the Earth's surface, scientists have to probe deep into the interior. A region near the planet's core, about 1,800 miles down called the core-mantle boundary, is particularly intriguing. Through novel experiments mimicking high-pressures and temperatures there, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory may have solved a longstanding mystery about why certain seismic waves called shear waves move so sluggishly through clumpy patches (ultralow velocity zones) at these incredible depths. See
g Life - A rare Patagonian rodent known as the colonial tuco-tuco fascinates biologists because it seems to defy all odds. This threatened species has so little genetic diversity that the slightest whiff of climate change or disease should have wiped it off the face of the earth long ago. Yet the hearty gopher-like creature has not only managed to survive for thousands of years in the harsh climate of the Argentine highlands, it has evolved a complex social structure that's unique among the more than 50 closely related tuco-tuco species. See
g Intelligence - Newfound fossils from Ethiopia are giving scientists a clearer glimpse into the murky origins of a hominid species that was an important link in the evolution of ape to man. See http://
g Message - SETI research isn’t limited to a single facility listening to radio signals. Another dimension of the program is The Mega-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay, which searched the Southern Hemisphere's skies briefly during the 1990s. To learn more about it, see
g Cosmicus - Contrary to what many people who make expendable rockets will tell you, it isn't difficult to design a "single stage to orbit" rocket. In fact it's very easy - it can be done with rocket engines and propellant tanks designed, manufactured and operated 20 years ago! It's important to know this, because a lot of people will try to tell you otherwise. See
g Learning - "Teacher, why do I need to learn this?" "What’s it good for?" Students ask these questions when faced with content that seems unrelated to their lives. Motivating students is fundamental to promoting achievement in any classroom, even in science, which encompasses the entire natural world, the whole universe. Good questions and quality experiences support science learning for all students, not just those who are already science-friendly. The relatively new discipline of astrobiology asks great questions that intrigue students. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Ian Watson’s short story, "Peace," anthologized in “Alien Encounters” (edited by Jan Finder).
g Aftermath - While formal principles have been adopted for the eventuality of detecting intelligent life in our galaxy, no such guidelines exist for the discovery of non-intelligent extraterrestrial life within the solar system. Current scientifically based planetary protection policies for solar system exploration address how to undertake exploration, but do not provide clear guidance on what to do if and when life is detected. Considering that Martian life could be detected under several different robotic and human exploration scenarios in the coming decades, it is appropriate to anticipate how detection of non-intelligent, microbial life could impact future exploration missions and activities, especially on Mars. See{B0D4BC0ED59B4CD09E79113953A58644}/m_race_guidelines.pdf.