Saturday, August 19, 2006

Galaxy's oldest and dimmest stars, rosy Hyperion and strategies for contact other than radio waves

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 - Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have imaged some of the galaxy's oldest and dimmest stars, offering a rare experimental glimpse of two mysterious star types tiny, slow burners less than one-tenth the size of our sun and once giant stars that still glow more than 10 billion years after their deaths. See
g Abodes - Unlike most of the dull grey moons in the solar system, Hyperion's color is a rosy tan. The origin of the moon's unusual hue is not known. Some scientists suspect the color comes from falling debris from moons further out. A similar origin has been suggested for the dark reddish material on Saturn's moon Iapetus. See For related story, see “Boosting Enceladus' signal” at
g Life - Some 15 years ago, blue mussels knew their enemies and had a rather peaceful life in the New England waters. But when an invasive crab species turned up, the mussels moved quickly to defend themselves against this new predator by thickening their shells. Such rapid evolutionary response is a "nanosecond" compared with the thousands of years that it normally takes for a species to respond to a predator. See
g Intelligence - Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found. See
g Message - When looking for ET, we may have to consider other strategies beyond radio waves. See As a side note, one of those strategies might by looking for optical signals; see
for more.
g Cosmicus - Engineers are conducting research to help NASA develop rockets faster and less expensively for future missions to Mars and the moon. See
g Learning - Americans love science in their movies and TV shows, yet recent reports indicate we are losing our scientific dominance to the rest of the world. Can science-themed entertainment get Americans off the couch and into the lab? See http://www.astrobio.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read James E. Gunn’s “The Listeners,” published by Scribner's in 1972.
g Aftermath - Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” shows how little we’ve thought about this question. See