Friday, June 02, 2006

Gravity waves, Pegasids and ‘Having a Ball 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 - In the past, astronomers could only see the sky in visible light, using their eyes as receptors. New technologies extended their vision into different spectra: infrared, ultraviolet, radio waves, x-rays and gamma rays. But what if you had gravity eyes? Einstein predicted that the most extreme objects and events in the Universe should generate gravity waves, and distort space around them. A new experiment called Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory could make the first detection of these gravity waves. See
g Abodes - A team of European astronomers, led by T. Guillot (CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, France), will publish a new study of the physics of Pegasids (also known as hot Jupiters) in Astronomy & Astrophysics. They found that the amount of heavy elements in Pegasids is correlated to the metallicity of their parent stars. This is a first step in understanding the physical nature of the extrasolar planets. See
g Life - Interstellar dust clouds, comets and microorganisms are all part of Hoyle’s modern panspermia hypothesis. See
g Intelligence - Recent research suggested that ancient Neanderthals might have had an accelerated childhood compared to that of modern humans but that seems flawed, based on a new assessment by researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Newcastle. See
g Message - The next generation of big radio telescopes won't look anything like today's massive dishes. Instead of giant steel constructions towering into the sky, the future will belong to more economical arrays of many small antennas hugging the ground. And, in a historic role reversal, searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence are blazing a trail for conventional radio astronomy to follow. See
g Cosmicus - Taiwan and Japan plan to jointly construct the world's largest astronomical observatory ALMA which is being built in Chile. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Having a Ball on Mars.” A funny accident in the Mojave Desert has inspired a new kind of Mars rover - a two-story high beach ball that can descend to the Martian surface and explore vast expanses of the Red Planet. In this lesson, which reinforces creative thinking and the scientific method, students design and test their own Mars Balls. See
g Imagining - Could the legendary dragons of Pern from Anne McCaffrey’s famous science fiction novels actually exist? Welcome to the theoretical science of dracogenetics. See
g Aftermath - If we find other civilizations, what will we say to them? Crafting a message that represents Earth and humanity and can be understood by another life form is no minor endeavor. SETI Institute psychologist Douglas Vakoch has been charged with this formidable task, and has enlisted the help of mathematicians, artists, astronomers and anthropologists. Hear the messages he helped compose and learn about the thinking behind them at