Monday, September 04, 2006

Viking mission’s 30th anniversary, chaotic biosphere recovery and countdown begins for Atlantis

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 - An active region of star formation in the Large Magellanic Cloud, as photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, unveils wispy clouds of hydrogen and oxygen that swirl and mix with dust on a canvas of astronomical size. The LMC is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. See
g Abodes - At the recent 30th anniversary celebration of the Viking mission, Gentry Lee discussed the excitement of landing on Mars for the first time, and how far we’ve come in our exploration of Mars since then. See
g Life - The recovery of biodiversity after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction was much more chaotic than previously thought, according to paleontologists. New fossil evidence shows that at certain times and places, plant and insect diversity were severely out of balance, not linked as they are today. See
g Intelligence - The human brain does not contain a single "God spot" responsible for mystical and religious experiences, a new study finds. See
g Message - How will we decode any message from ET? For some speculation and a discussion of the inherent difficulties, see; part II follows at
. Note: This story is from summer 2001.
g Cosmicus - The countdown has begun for Wednesday's launch of space shuttle Atlantis to deliver a set of power-generating solar wings to the space station. Clocks in Firing Room 4 of the Complex 39 Launch Control Center starting ticking at 8 a.m. EDT Sunday morning. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site: Sci-fi Magazine, a WebQuest for high school students (science or literature)designed to ask students to critically analyze the use of science in a science fiction novel. See
g Imagining - How might Pierson’s Puppeteer, the strange, three-legged creatures from Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” have evolved? While is a bit short on physical evolution, it does discuss how behavioral traits may have evolved. “Star Trek” fans will recall that Niven wrote one of The Animated Series’ episodes, which included the Kzinti and the Slaver stasis field.
g Aftermath - Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” ( shows how little we’ve thought about this question.