Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Microorganisms thriving in extreme cold and heat, X Prize Cup and ‘Star Trek’ biology

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that some 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 - AKARI, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency infrared astronomical satellite with ESA participation, is continuing its survey of the sky and its mapping of our cosmos in infrared light. New exciting images recently taken by AKARI depict scenes from the birth and death of stars. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/
g Abodes - To most common terrestrial dwellers, there's no place like Earth. But new simulations show that many Earth-like planets might exist outside of our solar system. See http://www.space.
g Life - Scientists at Israel's Weizmann Institute say they've discovered how some microorganisms manage to exist and even thrive in extreme cold and extreme heat. See http://www.scie
g Intelligence - Psychologists have long known that memories of disturbing emotional events - such as an act of violence or the unexpected death of a loved one - are more vivid and deeply imprinted in the brain than mundane recollections of everyday matters. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/
g Message - Is there any good reason to look for intelligently generated extraterrestrial emissions in the spectrum at Pi GHz or 3.141... GHz. See http://seti1.setileague.org/askdr/pi.htm.
g Cosmicus - Momentum is picking up in staging the X Prize Cup, to be held October 20-21 at the Las Cruces International Airport, New Mexico. See http://www.space.com/news/060831_xprize_upaero.html.
g Learning - Here’s an easy to understand (and attractive) primer to astrobiology, courtesy of the BBC: http://www.open2.net/science/finalfrontier/life/what.htm.
g Imagining - If “Star Trek” has been about the search for life, “To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek” is about understanding these discoveries as we encounter them with the crews of the Enterprise, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine. Harvard biologist Athena Andreadis takes a lively, thought-provoking look at Star Trek's approach to the science of human, humanoid, and other life-forms, exploring what biological principles are probable or possible on the original show and the three series and nine movies that have followed. This absorbing, illuminating book makes everyone an armchair expert on the difference between science and science fiction on “Star Trek,” with keen observations into the series' complex worlds of physiology, psychology, and sociology. Its wealth of scientific detail and cultural insight pays tribute to a show that has profoundly shaped the way we understand and view science. See http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=2-0609804219-1.
g Aftermath - When an alien lands on the White House lawn, who should greet him (her? it?): Someone from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or someone from the Fish and Wildlife Commission? What rights would an extraterrestrial have? See http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/LegalRightsOfETs.htm. Note: This article is from 1977, but the issue has been thought about very little.