Thursday, February 01, 2007

Finding Earth-like worlds, how brains tell time and commercialization of low-Earth orbit

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 - Of the more than 200 extrasolar planets found so far, most are not rocky worlds like the Earth. That doesn’t mean Earths are rare – we just don’t have the technological ability to detect their subtle signatures. In this interview, Barrie Jones discusses why astrobiologists can expect to find many Earth-like planets someday. See article.
g Life - Do germs communicate? Many scientists think so and are betting the chatter may hold the key to developing the next generation of drugs to fight killer superbugs. See
g Intelligence - For decades, scientists have believed that the brain possesses an internal clock that allows it to keep track of time. Now a UCLA study in the Feb. 1 edition of Neuron proposes a new model in which a series of physical changes to the brain's cells helps the organ to monitor the passage of time. See
g Message - Will universal fear doom SETI to a continuation of the Great Silence? In a response to David Brin’s Zoo Hypothesis argument (see, here’s a SETI League editorial:
g Cosmicus - On Wednesday, NASA agreed to cooperate with PlanetSpace Inc. of Chicago and Transformational Space Corp. (t/Space) of Reston, Va., to facilitate the commercialization of low-Earth orbit as they develop capabilities to transport goods and people to orbital destinations. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web site for kids: “Are Humans All Alone in the Universe?” In the program, kids get to search for ET — and learn some principles of science along the way. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read C.M. Kornbluth’s short story "The Silly Season," originally published in F&SF (Fall 1950).
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See Note: This article is from 2001.