Sunday, May 07, 2006

Solar superstorm, Norway’s first dinosaur and chimpanzee taste buds

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - The relative void between Sun and Earth is loaded with electrically charged particles, radiation, magnetic field, and electromagnetic energy. The effects from this space weather can range from damage to satellites to disruption of power grids on Earth. Space weather can wreak havoc on a planet-wide basis. And a look back more than 145 years ago may offer clues as to how harmful a space superstorm might be given our dependence on technological systems. See
g Abodes - The chance of detecting life outside our own solar system probably is greater than discovering it on neighboring planets and moons like Mars or Europa, a moon of Jupiter, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder professor. See
g Life - While most nations excavate their skeletons using a toothbrush, the Norwegians found one using a drill. See
g Intelligence - Gene variants determine which humans and which chimpanzees can taste bitter substances. For humans, this taste sensitivity may influence nutritional choices and ultimately their health, as well as behaviors, such as smoking. For chimpanzees, it provides a way to live safely in their environments by avoiding toxic plants and other harmful compounds. See
g Message - Here’s a neat interactive Web game where you analyze a signal from space, just as would a SETI astronomer:
g Cosmicus - Many people think that weightlessness is a strange and even dangerous condition, but there's nothing particularly weird about it. Anyone can experience it (briefly!) by just jumping into the air, or for up to about a second by jumping off a wall. While you're airborne your body is in weightlessness. Trampolinists and high divers experience weightlessness for up to a few seconds. See
g Learning - There are some great teacher resources on space biology at The modules cover such topics as “Life in the Universe,” “Radiation Biology” and “Life in Space Environments.” Each module includes an introduction, readings and references, teaching resources and research and applications.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Hal Clement’s novel, “Needle,” published by Doubleday in 1951.
g Aftermath - Book alert: “Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications, by Steven J. Dick (editor), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. See