Thursday, August 03, 2006

Faintest object outside our solar system, Titan’s liquid methane drizzle and the public space travel business

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 - As part of an ongoing search for Earth's nearest stellar neighbors, astronomers have determined the distance to a stellar-like body known as DEN 0255-477 and discovered that it is the nearest-known L dwarf. This body is now also the faintest object outside our solar system for which its intrinsic visual brightness has been measured. See
g Abodes - Liquid methane drizzles on the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn, according to a paper by NASA and university scientists. "The rain on Titan is just a slight drizzle, but it rains all the time, day in, day out. It makes the ground wet and muddy with liquid methane." See
g Life - Thirty fossils of two previously unknown species of carnivorous reptiles believed to be 115 million years old have been found in South Australia. See
g Intelligence - The phrase "medical miracle" is a newsroom cliche. It means a situation in which a person makes an unexpected recovery despite great odds or a pessimistic prognosis. Yet often the phrase is used much more broadly to describe a seemingly supernatural or paranormal healing or curing event such as faith healing. While to many people it may seem obvious that a miracle has occurred, in reality such miracles are rarely as impressive as they seem. See
g Message - Since the Department of Defense launched the first Global Positioning System satellite in 1978, GPS technology has matured into a highly valued, national resource used for a virtually limitless variety of applications involving location, navigation, tracking, mapping and timing. Despite the amazing variety of uses of the technology, there is one application that the creators of GPS surely never could have imagined: seeking to detect the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. See http://www.profsurv.
. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - The public space travel business is picking up suborbital speed thanks to a variety of private rocket groups and their dream machines. See
g Learning - It's 110 degrees at the end of July here in the badlands around the border of North Dakota and Montana as the pickaxes swing down against the Hell Creek rock. The volunteers who have braved rattlesnakes and scorpions to work here in the swirling dust may look as if they are in prison, but they are in a time machine, traveling back 65 million years by excavating through rock.
And if these volunteers are lucky, they can keep bones they find. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Ian Watson’s short story "Now! You Can Banish Embarrassing Foot Odor Forever! The Ultimate One-Word First contact Story," published in “Alien Encounters” (edited by Jan Finder).
g Aftermath - Here’s a fascinating idea: A group of serious scientists, writers, military leaders and others discussing how to establish a constructive dialogue between humanity and ETI, once contact is made: