Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Life on extra-solar planets, silk threads on the wind and Gene Box

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 Abodes - Could life exist on discovered extra-solar planets? See
g Life - Researchers have developed a new model that explains how spiders are able to 'fly' or 'parachute' into new territory on single strands of silk – sometimes covering distances of hundreds of miles over open ocean. By casting a thread of silk into the breeze spiders are able to ride wind currents away from danger or to parachute into new areas. Often they travel a few meters but some spiders have been discovered hundreds of miles out to sea. Researchers have now found that in turbulent air the spiders' silk moulds to the eddies of the airflow to carry them further. See
g Intelligence - A multi-institutional team of researchers has found that people with long-standing, severe paralysis can generate signals in the area of the brain responsible for voluntary movement and these signals can be detected, recorded, routed out of the brain to a computer and converted into actions - enabling a paralyzed patient to perform basic tasks. See
g Message - Should we modify the Drake Equation to account for civilizations which actually engage in deliberate interstellar transmission? See
g Cosmicus - A NASA shoebox-size payload called “GeneBox” is now orbiting Earth as a passenger inside Bigelow Corporation's one-third scale, inflatable Genesis 1 test spacecraft. See
g Learning - Studies have long shown that boys in the United States and around the world do not read or write as well as girls. A new study finds that the problem cuts across socioeconomic lines and pins part of the blame squarely on schools, whose techniques cater to the strengths of girls and leave boys utterly disinterested. See
g Imagining - Are there any alternatives to DNA or RNA, as an “X-Files” episode said there was? See
g Aftermath - With humanity now on the verge of being capable to leave its home world, Earth, scientists have begun to wrestle with the consequences of this next great journey; of the social impact humanity will have upon discovering life elsewhere, be it fossil, bacterial or an intelligent civilization. See Note: This article is from 1999.