Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fizzing space, hot Earth and can aliens find us?

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Stars - Space is fizzing. Above our heads, where the Earth's magnetic field meets the constant stream of gas from the Sun, thousands of bubbles of superheated gas are constantly growing and popping. See
g Abodes - The Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years, probably even longer. The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia.'' See
g Life - Astrobiology Magazine’s managing editor, Henry Bortman, is hanging out with a group of astrobiologists in the driest place on Earth, Chile’s Atacama Desert. Yungay, an abandoned mining settlement in the Atacama, was until recently thought to be completely devoid of life. But new evidence hints at the possibility that even here, where rainfall is an event that occurs once a decade, microbial life can eke out an existence. See http://www.astrobio.
g Intelligence - The neurological basis for poor witness statements and hallucinations has been found by scientists at the University College London. In over a fifth of cases, people wrongly remembered whether they actually witnessed an event or just imagined it, according to a paper published in NeuroImage this week. See
g Message - Can aliens find us? With a really nice pair of binoculars, the Great Wall of China (not to mention less romantic constructions, such as interstate highways) does become visible from orbit. Any curious aliens that made it to within a few hundred miles of Earth would have no trouble seeing the artifacts of our civilization. They would know, without doubt, that technologically competent beings roamed our world. But how visible are we to aliens that are farther away? See
. Here’s the follow-up to the article from 2003: http://
g Cosmicus - The main camera on the Hubble Space Telescope, which has revolutionized astronomy with its stunning pictures of the universe, has stopped working, engineers said today. See http://
g Imagining - Scientifically speaking, are UFOs worth keeping an eye on? Not exactly. See