Friday, February 02, 2007

How brains guide limbs, Chinese space program and fallout from receiving an interstellar signal

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 - A recent study has changed our understanding of planetary atmospheres and may have implications for understanding the future of our own planet's climate. How Earth's environment changes over time is directly related to the evolution and survival of life on Earth. See
g Life - Scientists have long struggled to figure out how the brain guides the complex movement of our limbs, from the graceful leaps of ballerinas to the simple everyday act of picking up a cup of coffee. Using tools from robotics and neuroscience, two Johns Hopkins University researchers have found some tantalizing clues in an unlikely mode of motion: the undulations of tropical fish. See
g Message - When looking for ET, we may have to consider other strategies beyond radio waves. See As a side note, one of those strategies might by looking for optical signals; see
for more.
g Cosmicus - A Chinese navigation satellite was successfully hauled into orbit Friday to kick off a busy year in space that will include the launch of the country's first probe to study the Moon. See
g Learning - Are we alone? Are humans unique in the universe, or is our existence the natural outcome of universal processes that produced complex life on Earth and elsewhere? As we observe the universe beyond Earth, we find that we are fundamentally a part of it. To understand the relationship of humanity to stardust requires understanding evolution in its broadest sense. See Note: This article on teaching evolution in schools is from January 2001.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story "No Morning After," anthologized in “Time to Come” (edited by August Derleth and published by Farrar, Starus & Young in 1954).
g Aftermath - High-tech telescopes on the ground and in space that perform daunting astronomical peep shows in a search for Earth-like worlds aim to answer one of humankind's most monumental questions: “Are we alone?” There is on-going deliberation relating to the societal, philosophical and religious fallout that stems from resolving such a stellar inquiry.See