Thursday, June 01, 2006

Elusive subatomic particle, Hollywood aliens and SETI as religion

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - An elusive subatomic particle is being eyed as an answer to some of astronomy's largest questions. See
g Abodes - The International Polar Foundation has unveiled the final plans for Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station, to be built during the International Polar Year 2007-08. The station will enable Belgium, and other nations participating in its science program, to carry out important research on climate change and Antarctica's key role as part of the global climate system. See
g Life - The hypothesis that life on Earth began elsewhere received support from an unlikely source: the Columbia tragedy. See
g Intelligence - A biology research team is using statistical tools from a field known as "information theory" to measure the complexity of different species’ communication systems and thus learn how much information individual animals can transfer between each other. This allows the scientists to draw inferences about the intelligence of the communicating species, which in turn gives researchers of the Drake Equation’s Fi (fraction of planets on which intelligence develops) a better understanding of intelligence as an evolutionary adaptation. See
. Note: This article is from April 2004.
g Message - The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within 20 years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call. See Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - Science policy depends on the state of science itself, which evolves in response to new instrumentation, theoretical methods, and analytical tools. The growth of science and the course of science policy are undeniably progressive. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth. See
g Imagining - During the past several years, evolutionary biologists have proved that the disparate creatures of our planet are, at a fundamental genetic level, very similar to one another. The genes that differentiate the top and the bottom of a bug, for instance, are the same ones that differentiate our fronts from our backs. According to the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, this new understanding is among "the most stunning evolutionary discoveries of the decade," and is clearly "a dominant theme in evolution." The same law applies, it appears, to the extraterrestrial creatures that come out of Hollywood. See
. Note: This article is from 1997.
g Aftermath - Is SETI—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence—a religion? See