Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New cosmic map, train your brain and alien language challenges

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 - A new cosmic map confirms a close relationship between galaxies with supermassive black holes at their centers and the distribution of the invisible dark matter in the early universe. See http://space.com/scienceastronomy/070209_quasar_map.html.
g Abodes - New research findings may help refine the accepted models used by earth scientists over the past 30 years to describe the ways in which continents clash to form the Earth's landscape. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070208100925.htm.
g Life - Many species of ants scavenge for the same kinds of food. Why then doesn't the single most efficient species drive the others to extinction? A research group based at the University of Utah conducted a detailed study of ants in the mountains of southeastern Arizona to identify exactly how they manage to share the same environment. The study appears in the March issue of the American Naturalist. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070210170640.htm.
g Intelligence - Students who are told they can get smarter if they train their brains to be stronger, like a muscle, do better in school, a new psychology study shows. See http://www.livescience.com/human
g Message - Epicurus, in the fourth century BC, believed that the universe contained other worlds like our own, and since his time there has been considerable debate whether extraterrestrial life exists and might communicate with us. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See http://mysite.verizon.net/wsbainbridge/dl/ceti.htm.
g Cosmicus - Let’s face it. The heavily cratered Moon already looks like a beat-up and blasted world. So how about using the Nevada Test Site — established in 1951 to provide a venue for evaluating nuclear weapons explosions — as a nifty locale for shaking out NASA’s lunar outpost plans? See http://www.livescience.com/blogs/author/leonarddavid.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom resource courtesy of NASA: “Life on Earth … and Elsewhere?” This booklet contains 5 classroom activities for grades 5-10 spanning topics from "Defining Life," to "Determining the Chances of Extraterrestrial Life." See http://www.erg.pdf/.
g Aftermath - For centuries scientists, novelists and ordinary people have imagined what would happen if the human race had contact with an extra-terrestrial civilization. Professor Paul Davies, from the Australian Center for Astrobiology, Sydney, offers his thoughts in this interview. See http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_