Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Twenty new stellar systems in our local solar neighborhood and national strategy for lunar exploration

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 - Astronomers have identified 20 new stellar systems in our local solar neighborhood, including the twenty-third and twenty-fourth closest stars to the Sun. When added to eight other systems announced by this team and six by other groups since 2000, the known population of the Milky Way galaxy within 33 light-years of Earth has grown by 16 percent in just the past six years. See
g Abodes - Thanks to a flotilla of Mars orbiters, there’s been a steady flow of information streaming in from that puzzling world. Scientists are piecing together a far more coherent view of “real time” versus “geological time” in dealing with the whole of Mars today. See
. For related story, see http://www.
g Life - Over the last half century, researchers have found that mineral surfaces may have played critical roles organizing, or activating, molecules that would become essential ingredients to all life, such as amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and nucleic acids (the essence of DNA). But which of the countless possible combinations of biomolecules and mineral surfaces were key to this evolution? See
g Intelligence - Researchers at the University of Rochester may have answered one of neuroscience's most vexing questions—how can it be that our neurons, which are responsible for our crystal-clear thoughts, seem to fire in utterly random ways? See
g Message - Since there is a general agreement that the laws of nature are the same everywhere in our universe, it follows that mathematics must be universal and therefore it must be the same for every intelligent being in the universe. So, a language for SETI communication based on mathematics can be constructed. But the fact that mathematics has turned out to be so strictly entangled with material reality also establishes very sharp limitations to its efficacy for our purposes and the need of an integration with (at least) a pictorial language. See
g Cosmicus - NASA is set to roll out a U.S. national strategy for lunar exploration, one that outlines both robotic exploration needs and the rationale for sending humans back to the Moon. See http://www.
g Learning - Here’s something fun for the kids: An “Alien Life” word find ( It’s based on the Science for Kids article at
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Murray Leinster’s short story "Proxima Centauri," published in the March 1935 issue of Astounding Stories.