Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nitrogen-rich organic molecules in samples of cometary dust, ‘Introduction to Exobiology’ and ‘In Cosmic Company’

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 - Scientists have identified nitrogen-rich organic molecules in samples of cometary dust from the Stardust spacecraft. The result indicates that comets could have delivered these important molecules to the early Earth at a time when life was first emerging. See article.
g Message - A recent study suggests it is more energy efficient to communicate across interstellar space by sending physical material — a sort of message in a bottle — than beams of electromagnetic radiation. Solid matter can hold more information and journey farther than radio waves, which disperse as they travel. See
g Learning - Looking for an overview of the astrobiological field? Try "Introduction to Exobiology" (
chem/Exobiology/), which explores the field from a lay perspective and includes a self-test. It's part of the Cruising Chemistry project at Duke.
g Imagining - Book alert: You’ve got to read “Aliens and Alien Societies (Science Fiction Writing Series),” by Stanley Schmidt. Whether you're a writer or a reader of science fiction, this how-to guide provides thought-provoking analyses of the ways in which aliens and alien societies can be portrayed convincingly. It's as fascinating as the many classic SF texts it examines. See
for reviews.
g Aftermath - Book alert: In their November 2003 book "In Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe," authors Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of alien life and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. They explain why scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds, how we could discover it and what it might be like. Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. See
for reviews.