Saturday, February 17, 2007

Solar system outliving its sun, clashing continents and Project BETA

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 swarm of colliding comets is weaving a dusty death shroud for a distant stellar corpse and providing astronomers with rare proof that certain solar system objects can outlive their suns. See
g Abodes - New research may help refine the accepted models used by earth scientists to describe the ways in which continents clash to form the Earth's landscape. See
g Intelligence - Although no two brains are alike, they can display a comparable pattern of neural activity when exposed to similar sensory input. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen have now developed a mathematical method to design networks from neural cells which exhibit a predefined pattern dynamics. The researchers hope that their method will assist them in getting closer to understanding which of the possible network configurations was privileged by evolution - and why. See
g Message - A number of searches for extraterrestrial intelligence actually have occurred, are ongoing and are planned. Here’s one of the more famous ones: Project BETA, at Harvard University. See
g Cosmicus - New research on locomotion stability may aid in designing spacesuits with better mobility for astronauts on future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars. See
g Learning - The fact that you’re confronting this column on a web site devoted to space science and astronomy makes you roughly as rare as technetium. Despite the fact that astronomy is one of the two most popular science subjects in American schools (the other is biology), it’s really not that popular. See