Friday, August 04, 2006

Mysterious dark energy, Brave New Biosphere and ‘Voyagers’

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 - A new NASA mission aims to determine the properties of the mysterious dark energy that is causing the expansion rate of the universe to speed up. Called the Advanced Dark Energy Physics Telescope, the mission promises to determine the location of 100 million galaxies. It would be the most comprehensive survey of the universe ever undertaken. See
g Abodes - An international team of scientists is exploring the seafloor near Papua New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean this month with remotely operated and autonomous underwater vehicles, investigating active and inactive hydrothermal vents and the formation of mineral deposits containing copper, gold, and other minerals. See
. For related story, see “The Real Reason Louisiana is Sinking” at
g Life - When deciding which flower to land on, bumblebees look for warmth. And they use flower color as an indicator of temperature, a new study finds. See
g Intelligence - The older we get, the more we regret choosing virtue over vice, new research shows. See
g Message - Humankind has been unintentionally transmitting signals into space - primarily high-frequency radio, television, and radar - for more than 50 years. Our earliest TV broadcasts have reached several thousand nearby stars, although any alien viewers would have to build a very large antenna (thousands of acres in size) to detect them. See
g Cosmicus - The orbiting of the privately-bankrolled Genesis-1 expandable spacecraft by Bigelow Aerospace is a step forward in the company’s vision to provide a low-cost, low Earth orbit human-rated space complex that is accessible to the commercial sector. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat primer (for kids) to understanding extremophiles and how an understanding of them affects astrobiology: “Brave New Biosphere.” See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Ben Bova’s novel “Voyagers,” published by Tor in 1981.
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.