Friday, September 15, 2006

Solar flares, Artifact Hypothesis and chimp crossing guards

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 - Solar flares are tremendous explosions on the surface of our Sun, releasing as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT in the form of radiation, high energy particles and magnetic fields. The Sun's magnetic fields are known to be an extremely important factor in producing the energy for flaring and when these magnetic fields lines clash together, dragging hot gas with them, an enormous maelstrom of energy is released. See
g Abodes - A hardy microbe from Earth may one day transform the barren ground of Mars into arable soil. See
. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Life - Animals colonizing cities are exposed to many novel and potentially stressful situations. Chronic stress, however, can cause deleterious effects. Hence, wild animals would suffer from city life unless they adjusted their stress response to the conditions in a city. See
g Intelligence - Elementary school children aren't the only ones who need crossing guards. Scientists report that wild chimpanzees safely cross roads with the aid of adult males that serve as traffic patrollers. See
g Message - To subject the Fermi Paradox to needed experimental testing, a researcher has offered the Artifact Hypothesis: A technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization has undertaken a long-term program of' interstellar exploration via transmission of material artifacts.
g Cosmicus - NASA chief, Mike Griffin, is preparing for his first-hand look at China’s growing space program—a visit slated for month’s end. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of classroom activities: Life On Other Planets in the Solar System. It examines the possibility of life on other planets in our own solar system and what form that life might take. Designed as a curriculum resource for middle and high school students. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Gary A. Braunbeck’s short story "Kite People," anthologized in “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW in 1997).
g Aftermath - For centuries scientists, novelists and ordinary people have imagined what would happen if the human race had contact with an extra-terrestrial civilization. Professor Paul Davies, from the Australian Center for Astrobiology, Sydney, offers his thoughts in this interview. See