Saturday, July 22, 2006

Stars in infrared, Mars’ soil and mistaken assumptions about SETI

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 - British astronomers are releasing the first data from the largest and most sensitive survey of the heavens in infrared light to scientists across Europe. The UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey has completed the first of seven years of data collection, studying objects that are too faint to see at visible wavelengths, such as very distant or very cool objects. New data on young galaxies is already challenging current thinking on galaxy formation, revealing galaxies that are massive at a much earlier stage of development than expected. These first science results already show how powerful the full survey will be at finding rare objects that hold vital clues to how stars and galaxies in our universe formed. See
g Abodes - The answer to the question about life on Mars may very well come from analyzing an unsuspecting source - the soil, specifically the icy layer of soil underneath the Red Planet's surface. By analyzing the properties of Mars' frozen layer of soil during NASA's next lander mission, scientists will be able to better understand and theorize about life on Mars. See For related story, see “Life on Mars? A Timeline of the Debate” at
g Life - For the first time scientists have observed in real-time evolutionary changes in one species driven by competition for resources from another. See
g Intelligence - Without realizing it, people will perceive things according to how they want to see them, a new study suggests. See
g Message - Some people mistakenly confuse a long search with a thorough one, and figure that the lack of a SETI detection indicates that we’re alone in the galaxy. This, however, is nonsense. See
g Cosmicus - Space shuttle Atlantis will move closer to its first flight in almost four years when the orbiter is hauled into Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building at sunrise Monday. See
g Learning - More than half a century of U.S. dominance in science and engineering may be slipping as America's share of graduates in these fields falls relative to Europe and developing nations such as China and India, a study says. See http://www./
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 - Scientists should pay greater attention to discussing the social implications of discovering extraterrestrial life - even though many researchers shy away from the subject because they don't consider it "hard" science. See