Friday, August 11, 2006

Cosmic dust, how life takes shape and rocketbelts

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 - Each year nearly 40,000 tons of cosmic dust fall to Earth from outer space. Now, the first successful chronological study of extraterrestrial dust in Antarctic ice has shown that this amount has remained largely constant over the past 30,000 years, a finding that could help refine efforts to understand the timing and effects of changes in the Earth's past climate. See
g Life - How life takes shape is a mystery. Butterfly or baby, cells organize themselves into tissues, tissues form organs, organs become organisms. Over and over, patterns emerge in all living creatures. Spiders get eight legs. Leopards get spots. Every nautilus is encased in an elegant spiral shell. See
g Intelligence - From gamblers playing blackjack to investors picking stocks, humans make a wide range of decisions that require gauging risk versus reward. However, laboratory studies have not been able to unequivocally determine how the very basic information-processing "subcortical" regions of the brain function in processing risk and reward. See
g Message - "If you're sending a message to extraterrestrials, what you want to send is what's special about us and our planet — what is unusual," according to SETI astronomer Frank Drake. See his essay at
g Cosmicus - Let’s face it. Soaring through the sky in Superman-like style would be a Cloud 9-rated experience. Imagine propelling yourself from point-to-point via backpacking rocket power. For a group of test pilots, riding rocketbelt hardware is a trip down memory lane—back to the late 1950’s and bounding forward into the 1960’s. See
g Learning - A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Morton Klass’ "Earthman's Burden," originally published in “Astounding” magazine’s May 1954 issue.
g Aftermath - While no one can guarantee SETI’s success (the discovery of an alien civilization), that may not matter. At its deeper levels, SETI stimulates and influences our thoughts and transforms our society. See