Monday, August 14, 2006

SETI@home, life on Mars and ‘In Cosmic Company’

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 - For a star to form, gravity has to overcome buoyant magnetic forces that fight to keep a cloud of gas and dust from collapsing. Theorists have long suspected that the competition between gravity pulling inward and magnetic pressure pushing outward would produce a warped, hourglass pattern to the magnetic field within these collapsed cores. Now they've finally found just such a shape. See
g Abodes - It was a science fiction fantasy come true: Ten years ago this summer, NASA announced the discovery of life on Mars. Ten years later, the results have not been verified. Skeptics have found non-biological explanations for every piece of evidence that was presented on Aug. 6, 1996. And though they still vigorously defend their claim, the NASA scientists who advanced it now stand alone in their belief. See
g Life - The detailed images of embryos more than 500 million years old have been revealed by an international team of scientists. See
g Intelligence - Next time someone complains about arithmetic being hard, math lovers can defend themselves by saying "even a six-month-old can do it." See
g Message - Here’s a nice primer on the SETI@home project plus some information about how to download the program:
g Cosmicus - Here’s a comprehensive list of the remaining space shuttle missions through the program's 2010 retirement. The flights will complete the orbital construction of the International Space Station. The listing also illustrates how the outpost will grow over the next few years. See For related story, see “Shuttle communications antenna bolts a concern” at
g Learning - What are SETI scientists doing to foment the study and understanding of astrobiology in our schools? See
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology/cultures? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for David Brin’s Uplift Series: "Star Diver" (1980), "Startide Rising" (1983) and "The Uplift War" (1987), in which Earth takes its place in galactic politics, and from his New Uplift Trilogy: "Brightness Reef" (1995), "Infinity's Shore" (1997), in which six species live in harmony on an illegal colony world.
g Aftermath - Book alert: In their November 2003 book "In Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe," authors Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of alien life and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. They explain why scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds, how we could discover it and what it might be like. Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. See http://
for reviews.