Friday, September 29, 2006

Camera eyes on Mars, Earth’s first birds and ‘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 - Strong solar flares cause Global Positioning System receivers to fail, Cornell researchers have discovered. Because solar flares - larger-than-normal radiation "burps" by the sun - are generally unpredictable, such failures could be devastating for "safety-of-life" GPS operations - such as navigating passenger jets, stabilizing floating oil rigs and locating mobile phone distress calls. See
g Abodes - The most powerful camera ever to orbit Mars will get its first close look at the Red Planet today. See http://www.astrobio.
g Life - The earliest known bird had flight feathers on its legs that allowed it to use its hind limbs as an extra pair of wings, a new study finds. See
. For related story, see “Ancient Birds Flew On All-Fours."
g Message - When it comes to signaling across space, power is paramount. See Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - NASA is marching forward on its Moon, Mars and beyond planning, a multi-step action agenda enunciated by President George W. Bush as the vision for space exploration in January 2004. One goal of that plan is returning humans to the Moon as early as 2015 and no later than 2020. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom lesson plan on “The United Nations Treaty for the Exploration and Use of Outer Space”:
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read David Bischoff’s "The Xaxrling of J. Arnold Boysenberry," anthologized in “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW, 1997).
g Aftermath - Book alert: In “Cosmic Company,” Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of aliens visiting the Earth, as well as the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos proving we're neither alone, nor the most intelligent life forms. They explain why scientists think life might exist on other worlds, and how we might contact it. Shostak and Barnett, experienced writers of popular astronomy, provide an accessible overview of the science and technology behind the search for life in the universe. See