Saturday, September 02, 2006

Super-magnetic star, Titan’s methanosphere and ‘The Science of Aliens’

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 - Odd flashing pulses coming from a super-magnetic star called a magnetar have astronomers glued to telescopes across the globe. See
g Abodes - Scientists knew Saturn's giant moon Titan would be interesting, perhaps containing organic compounds that are the building blocks of life. But the discovery of methane lakes and a "methanosphere" raises a question: is a frozen moon orbiting a giant gas planet Earth's closest analog in the solar system? See http://www.
. For related stories, see “Incredible cliffs of Dione” at http://
and “Toward Melanthius” at
g Life - Every creature has its place and role in the oceans - even the smallest microbe, according to a new study. See http://www.astrobio.
g Intelligence - Scientists have for the first time erased long-term memories in rats and also directly seen how the brain is changed by learning. See
g Message - What are the advantages of looking for ET using near-infrared laser communications? There’s a good explanation at a University of Kentucky Web site; see
g Cosmicus - NASA has selected Lockheed Martin as the prime contractor to design, develop and build the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, the planned replacement for the space shuttle that will become the backbone of the agency’s human spaceflight program. Lockheed Martin beat out a rival bid from Northrop Grumman and Boeing to win a contract NASA said would be potentially worth $8.15 billion. See
g Learning - Here’s the ultimate Web site for an introduction to astrobiology. “Astrobiology: The Living Universe” is a comprehensive and educational guide to life on Earth and beyond. This site features sections on the chemical origin of life, evolution, planetary biology, the search for extraterrestrial life, supporting humans in space and exobiology. See
g Imagining - Here’s a neat book you should pick up: “The Science of Aliens” by Clifford A. Pickover. See
for some reviews.
g Aftermath - Book alert: You may have to really scour used book stores for this one: 1976’s “ETI: The First Encounter” considers the consequences to man's view of himself and his world of the first proven contact — when it comes — with beings from another planet. Edited by James L. Christian, this book led the way in reflecting on the next stage in man's gradual self-discovery. For the table of contents and ISBN, see