Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pint-sized black holes, where ancient birds evolved and ‘The Human Potential for Peace’

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - Researchers have proposed a bizarre new theory that our solar system might be the home of thousands of very small black holes — that is, pint-size versions of the weirdest objects in the universe. See
g Abodes - Scientists have found a chunk of a meteorite that made an enormous impact crater in South Africa 146 million years ago. Found half a mile down, the chrondritic meteorite somehow survived the shock pressures and temperatures of the immense impact. Fossil meteorites have previously been found in craters, but when larger bodies hit they were thought to be melted or vaporized within seconds of impact. The discovery of this meteorite may help us better understand the Earth's bombardment history. See http://
g Life - Five fossils recently found in China show that ancient birds likely evolved in an aquatic environment. Gansus yumenesis, which lived some 105 to 115 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous period, took modern birds through a watery path out of the dinosaur lineage. Did this aquatic lifestyle perhaps help birds survive the cataclysm that extinguished the dinosaurs 65 million years ago? See
g Intelligence - Book alert: In “The Human Potential for Peace,” Douglas Fry challenges advocates of a "dark-sided, demonic view" of humanity who allegedly believe that "humans (especially human males) are a bloodthirsty mob, prone to be violent and warlike by nature.” Fry marshals an impressive array of anthropological evidence to convince readers that humans "are not really so nasty after all,” concluding that humans deserve to be known as the "peacemaking primate.” See
g Message - Searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are about to expand into new realms, thanks to new advances in technology — and new thinking. See
g Cosmicus - Could astronauts one day live in inflatable space habitats? See Note: This article is a few of years old; note that NASA didn’t deploy any inflatable space habitats in 2005.
g Learning - What are university students learning about astrobiology? Check out "An Introduction to Astrobiology." Compiled by a team of experts, this textbook has been designed for elementary university courses in astrobiology. It begins with an examination of how life may have arisen on Earth and then reviews the evidence for possible life on Mars, Europa and Titan. The potential for life in exoplanetary systems and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence are also discussed. The text contains numerous useful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. It is also supported by a Web site hosting further teaching materials. Written in an accessible style that avoids complex mathematics, this book is suitable for self-study and will appeal to amateur enthusiasts as well as undergraduate students. It contains numerous helpful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. The book is also supported by a Website hosting further teaching materials. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” (1973) in which a huge ship bypasses Earth. See
g Aftermath - What affect would the discovery of alien life have on the story-telling genre that inspires the search for it — science fiction? See