Friday, May 12, 2006

Supernova-hiding star, potentially habitable planets and water on Mars

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - A star once hidden by a stellar death shroud is the source of odd behavior of its companion supernova, a new study has found. See
g Abodes - Chances are you haven't spent a whole lot of time wondering how many Jupiter-like planets exist in our galaxy. But Charley Lineweaver has, because it bears on a more important question: How many potentially habitable planets are there? See
. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - A team of researchers from the University of Arkansas has measured water evaporation rates under Mars-like conditions, and their findings favor the presence of surface water on the planet. Water on the planet's surface makes the existence of past or present life on Mars a little more likely. See
g Intelligence - The shapes of letters in all languages are derived from common forms in nature, according to a new hypothesis. The idea, in some ways seemingly obvious and innately human, arose however from a study of how robots see the world. 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: C. Zerwick’s and H. Brown’s “The Cassiopeia Affair,” published in 1968 by Curtis. In this novel, an exploration of the effects that an alien radio message might have on Earth. One of the authors is a geochemist.
g Cosmicus - A lot of people think you need to be a superman to survive the trip to orbit, or to live there. But it's not true. This is just a myth - largely based on fictional stories and movies from before the first space flight was made. (Remember Tintin and friends blacking out? Or the strained expressions on people's faces in old space movies?) The fact is that acceleration of even several Gs is no problem at all so long as you're lying on your back. It doesn't hurt. It's not even hard to breathe. It's like having a baby lying on your chest. But it's not uncomfortable so long as you're lying on something soft. And there's no need for an individually contoured couch! See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity that examines if yeast, a common yet tenacious microbe, can survive boiling water, salt, UV radiation and citric acid? Students find out for themselves by creating "Planets in a Bottle" which illustrate extreme conditions on other worlds. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Theodore Sturgeon’s short story "Killdozer," published in the November 1944 edition of Astounding.
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book “The SETI Factor,” by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See Note: This article is from 2003.