Friday, July 28, 2006

Spinning stellar corpses, Viking 30 years later and remote sensing

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 - The mechanism responsible for intense X-ray emissions from spinning stellar corpses may not be what astronomers have assumed. See
g Abodes - Thirty years after the first successful landing on Mars by NASA's Viking spacecraft, the ambitious mission continues to evoke pride and enthusiasm for future space exploration. See http://www.
g Life - For the first time, scientists have established the age structure of a non-avian dinosaur population. Using this information, they inferred which factors led to survival or death of group members. See
g Intelligence - A protein once thought to be a principal player in linking nerve responses in the nose to those in the brain actually has a more specialized role, according to a Yale School of Medicine study published in Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. See
g Message - More than 30 years ago, humanity sent its first and only deliberate radio message to extraterrestrials. Nobody has called back yet, but that's OK - we weren't really expecting an answer. See Note: This article is from 1999.
g Cosmicus - British scientists are playing a key role in the drive to make electronic gadgets smaller, smarter and even more powerful. Researchers from five universities are designing a new generation of “nano-electronic” circuits (chips) that will power the computers and mobile phones of the future. The circuits may also make possible entirely new forms of electronic device that could benefit a range of sectors, including entertainment, communications and medicine. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Remote Sensing.” In this lesson, students discover how remote sensing is used to identify the signatures of life even when the particular life form is not directly observable. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Starfarers Series”: “Starfarers” (1989), “Transition” (1990), “Metaphase” (1992) and “Nautilus” (1994). In the series, a ship staffed by an international crew goes out to contact alien life. It eventually discovers dying squidmoth, which leads them into further contacts.
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See