Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hidden biospheres, space architect and lessons from Hollywood 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 Abodes - Atmospheric scientists have reported a new and potentially important mechanism by which ocean phytoplankton may influence the formation of clouds that reflect sunlight away from our planet. "Studies like this one may help reshape the way we think about how the biosphere interacts with clouds and climate," said Athanasios Nenes of Georgia Tech's School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. See article.
g Life - Two recent discoveries in astrobiology challenge many of our assumptions about an integrated biological community on Earth. At the microbial level, it seems that there may be previously hidden biospheres that exist on Earth alongside our more familiar neighbors. One such community has been found deeply buried underground, while the other lives in the sea alongside more familiar life forms. See
g Intelligence - Intelligence could help shield children from traumatic events, U.S. researchers report. See
g Message - Astronomer Michael M. Davis checked his computer. One of the antennas on the state-of-the-art radio telescope being built in the valley outside his office was picking up an unusual pulse from beyond the Earth. A signal from another intelligent civilization? Not today. It was the Rosetta Satellite, en route to study a comet. See
g Cosmicus - "Every single aspect of space is conspiring at every moment to pretty much kill humans." And this is part of what motivates Madhu Thangavelu to be a space architect. See
. Note: This article is from 2000.
g Learning - The challenge to communicate both the breadth and depth of astrobiology is discussed by Carol Oliver, of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. As a researcher in communicating science, she considers how best to tell a busy public what it means to explore other worlds for signs of life elsewhere. See
g Imagining - Speculation about aliens has typically been left to science fiction authors, science fiction readers and Hollywood writers and directors. But what if we apply what we have learned about life on Earth to speculate about what alien life forms might be like? Here’s a primer:
g Aftermath - Could religions survive contact with extraterrestrials? The Medieval Church didn't think so, as the discovery would challenge mankind's central role in the cosmos. Today such ideas are considered old fashioned, and many theologians welcome the discovery of life — even intelligent life — among the stars. But if scientists were to find microscopic Martians or a signal from another world, would established religions really take it in stride? For a discussion, check out this past program of SETI’s “Are We Alone?” at
. Note: An mp3 player is required to play the audio files; you can download one at the site for free.