Friday, August 25, 2006

NASA’s transition, introduction to astrobiology and predicting reactions to evidence of an otherworldly intelligence

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 Intelligence - A protein once thought to play a role only in the immune system could hold a clue to one of the great puzzles of neuroscience: how do the highly malleable and plastic brains of youth settle down into a relatively stable adult set of neuronal connections? Harvard Medical School researchers report in the Aug. 17 Science Express that adult mice lacking the immune system protein paired-immunoglobulin like receptor-B had brains that retained the plasticity of much younger brains, suggesting that PirB inhibits such plasticity.
g Message - Since the invention of the radio, humans have been broadcasting signals into outer space. Other civilizations in our galaxy might be doing the same. They might even be deliberately sending out signals to find other civilizations. Someone out there may even be beaming a signal directly at the Earth. See
g Cosmicus - NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is known for being a straight shooter willing to make tough decisions. Brought on board by the Bush administration to implement a new initiative to return to the moon by the end of the next decade, Griffin is overseeing a difficult transition as NASA works to complete the international space station by 2010, phase out the space shuttle and develop a new manned spacecraft that will be safer and cheaper to operate. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site in which Monica Grady, head of petrology and meteoritics in the department of mineralogy at the Natural History Museum, presents a comprehensive introduction to astrobiology:
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Robert Silverberg’s novel “Collision Course,” published by Avalon in 1961.
g Aftermath - How to predict reactions to receipt of evidence for an otherworldly intelligence? Some scientists argue that any unpredictable outcomes can only be judged against our own history. See