Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brown dwarf spotted, Xena renamed Eris and Atlantis lands

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 - Discovered just 11 years ago, a class of oddball "failed stars" continues to baffle as well as enlighten astronomers. Now researchers have spotted for the first time one of these failed stars, called a brown dwarf, with a companion planet — both orbiting a Sun-like star. See
. For related story, see “Scientists find first brown dwarf in planetary system” at
g Abodes - The International Astronomical Union has announced that the dwarf planet known as Xena since its 2005 discovery has been named Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord. See
g Life - To approach the empirical question of how far we can test the earliest stages of biological evolution in our own solar system, we should decide first whether we should expect any form of convergence in the exo-microorganisms that we might encounter, possibly close to the surface of icy worlds, such as Europa. See Note: This article is from 2003.
g Intelligence - Researchers have found stimulating a region known as the left temporoparietal junction caused a woman to feel the presence of a shadowy person. See
g Message - On an episode of “The Space Show” last year, Scot Stride, a senior engineer at NASA JPL in Pasadena, Calif., was the guest for this Space Show program. Stride discussed SETI programs with us and highlighted his discussion with the SETI alternatives, SETV (Search for ET Visitation) and S3ETI (Solar System SETI). Stride provided listeners with a superb background and history on SETI, how it started and how it became what it is today. He also discussed the Allen Telescope Array and what it will mean for future SETI efforts. To hear a copy of the show, see
g Cosmicus - The space shuttle Atlantis has touched down in Florida at the end of a 12 day mission that restarted orbital construction of the International Space Station by delivering a power-generating module and deploying two solar wings. See
g Learning - In late August, 166 young space professionals and students from around the world gathered at NASA’s Ames Research Center to give their input on the future of space exploration. The event was called the Next Generation Exploration Conference and was by invitation only, bringing together the leading young people on the planet with a passion for space. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read C.M. Kornbluth’s short story "The Silly Season," originally published in F&SF (Fall 1950).
g Aftermath - Reactions to the announcement that scientists had found evidence for primitive life in a meteorite from Mars have been intense. Some concerned the scientific evidence, some the implications of extraterrestrial life, especially if intelligent. Underlying these reactions are assumptions, or beliefs, which often have a religious grounding. The two divergent beliefs, for and against the plurality of life in the universe, are examined historically and through religious traditions, particularly the Judeo-Christian. This examination guides the formulation of the right relation between science and religion as one that respects the autonomy of each discipline, yet allows for each to be open to the discoveries of the other. Based on this relationship, perspectives from scientific exploration are developed that can help individuals to respect and cope with the new phenomena that science brings, whether these imply that we might be alone in the universe or co-creatures of God with the ancient Martians. See