Saturday, September 09, 2006

Galaxy dust recycling, brain organization and Atlantis lifts off

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 image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is helping astronomers understand how dust is recycled in galaxies. The tiny particles - flecks of minerals, ices and carbon-rich molecules - are everywhere in the universe, and are important for making stars, planets and even people. See
g Abodes - Greenhouse gases might one day be used to warm the cold surface of Mars, and make the planet habitable for humans. See
. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Life - A startling revelation about the number of different kinds of bacteria in the deep-sea raises fundamental new questions about microbial life and evolution in the oceans. See
g Intelligence - Scientists have provided new insights into how the brain is organized - knowledge which could eventually inform diagnosis of and treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease and autism. See
g Message - Sitting beneath a dark night sky, looking up at the vast array of stars, what human has not wondered, "Are we alone? See
. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - The space shuttle Atlantis took off today on its fifth try, kicking off a long-awaited flight to restart assembly of the international space station three years after the Columbia disaster derailed construction. See
g Learning - Here’s a good Web site that gives an general overview of astrobiology for kids: “Astrocentral.” See
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology/cultures? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Mary Gentle’s "Golden Witchbreed" (1983) and "Ancient Light" (1987), which examines a culture of feline aliens.
g Aftermath - Scientists such as the SETI Institute’s John Billingham and Jill Tarter have taken the lead in planning for the day we might receive a signal from life beyond Earth. Working with diplomats and space lawyers, they have helped develop protocols that guide the activities of SETI scientists who think they may have detected extraterrestrial intelligence. See Note: This story is a couple of years old.