Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hazy skies on early Earth, ‘Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?’ and ‘Beyond Contact’

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 Abodes - Hazy skies on early Earth could have provided a substantial source of organic material useful for emerging life on the planet, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder. See article. For related stories, see “Cassini stares into the eye of monster storm on Saturn”, “Golden night on Saturn” and “Resplendent Rhea”.
g Life - How do birds released in one country find their way home in another, thousands of miles away? In part, they depend on a clock and a compass and they follow their nose. But the whole story is a lot more complicated. See http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/061113_pigeon_homing.html.
g Intelligence - In new research, reported in the current online issue of the journal Social Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Georgia and San Diego State University report for the first time that social exclusion actually causes changes in a person's brain function and can lead to poor decision-making and a diminished learning ability. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061108154256.htm.
g Message - Here’s a neat radio interview on the program “Earth and Sky,” about scientists looking for evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth. See http://www.earthsky.com/shows/edgeofdiscovery.php?date=20030513. Note: The interview is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - While analysts do not foresee the new Congress dismantling the agency’s plan to field new manned spacecraft systems and return to the Moon, they do expect Democrats to submit the U.S. space agency’s space exploration plans to more scrutiny and use their greater say over federal spending to bolster NASA science and aeronautics programs hard hit in recent budgets. See http://www.space.com/includes/iab.htmlurl=/spacenews/business
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web site for kids: “Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?” In the program, kids get to search for ET — and learn some principles of science along the way. See http://jvsc.jst.go.jp/universe/et_e/index_e.htm.
g Imagining - Scientifically speaking, are UFOs worth keeping an eye on? Not exactly. See http://www.space.com/news/060622_alien_encounters.html.
g Aftermath - Book alert: Pick up “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” by inventor and software developer Brian McConnell. The book examines whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it. This last problem, which occupies the final half of the book, proves to be the most thought provoking. See http://ibs.howstuffworks.com/ibs/orl/framed.htm?parent=http://ibs.howstuffworks.com/ibs/orl/alien-physiology5.htm&url=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/%0BASIN/0965377431/howstuffworks for reviews.