Monday, August 21, 2006

Faintest stars ever seen, online dating service for apes and what it would really mean if scientists found life beyond Earth

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 - An international team of astronomers has uncovered the faintest stars ever seen in any globular star cluster, bringing scientists closer to revealing the formation time of one of the earliest generations of stars in the Universe. See
g Abodes - As the Sun peeks above the horizon at the Martian south polar icecap, powerful jets of carbon-dioxide gas erupt through the icecap's topmost layer. If you were there, you'd feel a vibration through your spacesuit boots as, all around you, roaring jets of CO2 gas threw sand and dust hundreds of feet into the thin cold air. See
g Life - The most severe low-oxygen ocean conditions ever observed on the West Coast of the United States have turned parts of the seafloor off Oregon into a carpet of dead Dungeness crabs and rotting sea worms, a new survey shows. Virtually all of the fish appear to have fled the area. See
g Intelligence - Single male (red hair, long arms, interests include hanging in trees and grooming) seeks female for long-distance relationship and possibility of meeting up in future to help save species. Zookeepers in the Netherlands are planning to hook up Dutch and Indonesian orangutans over the Internet and believe the link could at some stage be used as an online dating service where apes could get to know one another and keepers could work out whether they would be compatible mates. See
g Message - Recent discussions within the SETI community have thoroughly explored the issue of whether people with access to radio telescopes should send powerful signals to alien civilizations without some process of prior international consultation. In particular, those exchanges have focused on the question of "Active SETI." See
g Cosmicus - A sensor created by Utah State University engineers is up in space to protect astronauts against unwanted shocks. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web site for kids: “Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?” In the program, kids get to search for ET — and learn some principles of science along the way. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “2001: A Space Odyssey,” published by NAL in 1968.
g Aftermath - Alien encounters and science fiction permeate pop culture, but what would it really mean if scientists found life beyond Earth? If even a single-celled organism on another planet was discovered, for many, this would be the last thread of evidence proving that life is simply chemistry. See Note: This article is from 2003.