Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mysteries of the universe, habitability of our solar system, skeleton-transforming coral

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 - For many stargazers, the night sky might look like a backdrop of very similar twinkling lights. But actually the billions of stars that make up the universe are varied and full of tantalizing marvels. From stellar fireworks caused by supernova explosions to invisible black holes, astronomers are gradually figuring out how stars work and what makes each variety unique. Many mysteries remain, however. See http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/top10_star_mysteries.html.
g Abodes - The production of chemically reactive oxidants on the surface of Mars and icy moons such as Europa may provide clues to their habitability and offers new avenues for future space exploration and the analysis of surface soil and ice shells, according to three special papers published in Astrobiology journal. See http://www.astrobiology.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=20277.
g Life - Leopards may not be able to change their spots, but corals can change their skeletons, building them out of different minerals depending on the chemical composition of the seawater around them. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060706095218.htm.
g Intelligence - Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in "sacred mushrooms" can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060711084914.htm.
g Cosmicus - Space station flight director Rick LaBrode sweated bullets going into today's spacewalk to fix a stalled robot arm transporter on the international lab complex. But months of planning, tests and simulations paid off with a successful repair job, clearing the way for resumption of station assembly. See http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts121/060710eva2wrap/.