Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pictures of Mars, why photosynthetic organisms don’t poison themselves and 70,000 BC rituals

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 - The University of Arizona-based team that operates the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in conjunction with NASA, is releasing the first of what will be a non-stop flood of incredibly detailed Mars images taken during the spacecraft's two-year primary science mission. See article.
g Life - Two and a half billion years ago, photosynthetic organisms started releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, changing the balance of gases on Earth. But researchers have long been puzzled as to how the organisms could make that oxygen without poisoning themselves. Now, two groups of researchers offer an explanation for this contradiction. See
g Intelligence - A startling discovery of 70,000-year-old artifacts and a python's head carved of stone appears to represent the first known human rituals. Scientists had thought human intelligence had not evolved the capacity to perform group rituals until perhaps 40,000 years ago. See
g Cosmicus - NASA managers Wednesday wrapped up a two-day flight readiness review and officially set Dec. 7 as the target launch date for the shuttle Discovery on an unprecedented mission to rewire the international space station. But station engineers are working two issues that must be resolved for Discovery to get off the ground next week. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Linda P. Baker’s short story "The Allure of Bone and Ice." It’s in the anthology “First Contact,” edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff (published by DAW in 1997).