Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Remains of stellar explosions, lightning from ice and alternatives to DNA/RNA

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 - Recent observations have uncovered evidence that helps to confirm the identification of the remains of one of the earliest stellar explosions recorded by humans. See
g Abodes - Miles above Earth in cumulonimbus clouds, tiny ice crystals are constantly bumping against larger ice pellets. The two kinds of ice rubbing together act like socks rubbing against carpet. Zap! Before you know it, the cloud is crackling with electric potential—and a bolt of lightning explodes to the ground. See
g Life - Does Greenland give a clue as to whether life was seeded twice: 'stock' cultures surviving one big impact event? “Life Under Bombardment” looks for the evidence of our terrestrial past. See
. Note: This article is from 2000.
g Message - Dan Werthimer, director of the SERENDIP SETI program and chief scientist of SETI@home at the University of California Berkeley, predicts we’ll make first contact with an alien civilization in 50-100 years. See Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - European astronaut Thomas Reiter recently began an extended stay on the International Space Station. His mission, Astrolab, is Europe’s first long-duration human mission in space. Over a period of several months, Reiter will conduct experiments to assess the effect on the human body of long-term exposure to the high-radiation and microgravity environment of space. See http://
g Learning - What are university students learning about astrobiology? Check out "An Introduction to Astrobiology." Compiled by a team of experts, this textbook has been designed for elementary university courses in astrobiology. It begins with an examination of how life may have arisen on Earth and then reviews the evidence for possible life on Mars, Europa and Titan. The potential for life in exoplanetary systems and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence are also discussed. The text contains numerous useful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. It is also supported by a Web site hosting further teaching materials. Written in an accessible style that avoids complex mathematics, this book is suitable for self-study and will appeal to amateur enthusiasts as well as undergraduate students. It contains numerous helpful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. The book is also supported by a Website hosting further teaching materials. See http://www.sci
g Imagining - Are there any alternatives to DNA or RNA, as an “X-Files” episode said there was? See
g Aftermath - In a cross-cultural study conducted several years ago, to scientists looked at the attitudes of college students towards the possibility that extraterrestrial life might exist, and if it does, what it might be like for people to learn that it exists. See Note: This article is from 2002.