Thursday, December 14, 2006

Secret lives of archaea, tools to search for extraterrestrial life and that space alien is just your mom

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 Life - From hot springs to rice farms, scientists reveal new insights into the secret lives of archaea. Certain archaea can inhabit some of the harshest environments on Earth and provide insights into how life might survive on other planets. See article.
g Message - Looking for life elsewhere is a tough task for human or robot. The good news is that the scientific skill and tools to search for, detect and inspect extraterrestrial life are advancing rapidly. See
g Cosmicus - Researchers have developed an advanced robot that can adapt when damaged or when its environment changes. The technology could prove useful on future space exploration missions. See
g Learning - An excellent collection of books about SETI, including some for elementary and middle school children, appears online at
. These would make some great gifts.
g Imagining - Psychologist Frederick Malmstrom, currently a visiting scholar at the U.S. Air Force Academy, believes that “visions” of space aliens are actually the image of the prototypical female face that is hardwired into every baby human's brain. When Malmstrom altered a picture of a woman in a way consistent with the characteristics of a newborn's vision (astigmatism and a shallow focal plane), the result looked very much like a big-eyed alien. See
g Aftermath - For one futurist’s thoughts about what will happen to humanity when we make first contact with aliens, see I offer this site not for its scientific rigor but as an example of something all of us who care about astrobiology should consider: What are the trends in popular culture about first contact? Such thinking will greatly influence public reaction when first contact actually does occur.