Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mean of ‘planet,’ ocean reefs’ role in life’s origin, Earth's radio emissions

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 - The existence of black holes is perhaps the most fascinating prediction of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. And now, a team has measured a black hole spinning so rapidly - turning more than 950 times per second - that it pushes the predicted speed limit for rotation. See article.
g Abodes - Before the dust even settled after the Great Pluto War at the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly in Prague, one thing became clear: There will never be an accepted scientific definition for the term "planet." See http://space.com/science
g Life - The origin of life may have happened in ocean reefs, and Miriam Andres from the University of Miami has developed an approach to better investigate them. Modern marine stromatolites are living examples of one of the Earth's oldest ecosystems. By fingerprinting ancient microbial pathways, we may increase our understanding of the origins of stromatolites. See http://www.astro
g Intelligence - For people unable to simultaneously rub their stomach while patting their head, a new twist may be at hand. Touch, rather than concentration, could let people multi-task with their hands, and this may also potentially help improve the performance of people with coordination problems, according to psychologists. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061120110611.htm.
g Message - The Earth's radio emission is now comparable to or stronger than the Sun's. So for aliens looking in the radio frequency, we should be the brightest spot in the solar system. See http://
. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth. See http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/AlienSafari_launch_page.html.
g Imagining - Here’s a neat Web page that asks “What are our chances of actually recognizing an alien intelligence for what it is?” What if ET does not say "Take me to your leader" from an obviously technologically superior spaceship? Will we know if it’s intelligent? It draws in part upon Stanley Weinbaum's famous short story, "A Martian Odyssey.” See http://www.sff.net/people/mmolvray/exobio/recog.htm.
g Aftermath - Will ET be altruistic or hostile? An Internet poll found a strong connection between people’s beliefs about extraterrestrials and their feelings about how meaningful life is. What makes the results even more compelling is that they match the findings of an earlier study conducted under more stringent testing conditions. See http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_hostiles_020221.html. Note: This article is from February 2002.