Sunday, February 18, 2007

Star’s last hurrah, hiking maps of Mars and Project OZMA

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 image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows the colorful "last hurrah" of a star like our sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star's remaining core. See
g Abodes - Scientists using data from the HRSC experiment onboard ESA's Mars Express spacecraft have produced the first “hiker's maps” of Mars. Giving detailed height contours and names of geological features in the Iani Chaos region, the maps could become a standard reference for future Martian research. See
g Life - A miner in the state of Chiapas found a tiny tree frog that has been preserved in amber for 25 million years, a researcher said. If authenticated, the preserved frog would be the first of its kind found in Mexico, according to David Grimaldi, a biologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History, who was not involved in the find. See
g Intelligence - Jeffrey H. Schwartz, University of Pittsburgh professor of anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences, is working to debunk a major tenet of Darwinian evolution. Schwartz believes that evolutionary changes occur suddenly as opposed to the Darwinian model of evolution, which is characterized by gradual and constant change. Among other scientific observations, gaps in the fossil record could bolster Schwartz's theory because, for Schwartz, there is no "missing link." See
g Message - Here’s a neat piece: an interview with Frank Drake, the astronomer and pioneer who flipped the "on" switch for Project Ozma, the first modern “SETI” project. See Note: The interview is from April 2000.
g Learning - Holy evolution, Darwin! Comics take on science: In recent years, a few scientists and comic book artists have joined forces to portray the excitement of science, scientific ideas and the drama of discovery. The latest one stars Charles Darwin, explaining evolutionary theory to a tiny follicle mite living in his eyebrow. See to hear the story.