Friday, March 30, 2007

Diversification of mammals, search for life in the universe (for kids) and life on a neutron star

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 new study challenges the classic idea that the mass extinction of the dinosaurs played a major role in the diversification of mammals. The study may shed new light on the connections between Earth's climate and the evolution of life.
g Life - The fossil of an ancient amphibious reptile with a crocodile's body and a fish's tail has been unearthed in Oregon. Scientists believe the creature's remains were transported by geologic processes nearly 5,000 miles away from where it originally died more than 100 million years ago. See
g Message - Modern Exobiology and Astrobiology studies now being sponsored by NASA, with participation by other nations and academia, are doing more than just ponder the probabilities of extraterrestrial life. Technological and human resources are being invested in remote-sensing efforts like the Terrestrial Planet Finder and robotic probe missions to search, in-situ, for clear signs of ET life on Mars, Europa and other promising solar system bodies. To further enhance and broaden the search for ETI, it’s now time to invest in methods, such as SETV, which search for clear evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence locally to aid in proving we are not alone in the universe. See
g Learning - This module, from the Japan Science and Technology Corporation, provides excellent background to the search for life in the universe, for kids. There is information about all the planets in the solar system and possibilities for life beyond, as well as descriptions of spacecraft and signals that originate from Earth (requires Flash plug-in). See
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Robert L. Dragon's "Egg" (1980), which describes life on a neutron star.
g Aftermath - “If we are able to find one extraterrestrial civilization, we should be able to find many,” according to the paper “Networking with our Galactic Neighbors.” “By the year 3000 either we will have abandoned the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or we will have made progress networking with other civilizations in our galaxy. One alternative is that we will first detect a civilization that, like our own, has not yet confirmed the existence of other distant civilizations. This success will accelerate our search efforts and put us in touch, one by one, with many more extraterrestrial societies. Under this alternative we would be founding members of the Galactic Club, that is the largest network of communicating civilizations within our galaxy. Another alternative is that our initial contact will be with a civilization that is already affiliated with the Galactic Club, with the result that we ourselves are offered membership. Whether we help build the first network of civilizations or are inducted into a pre-existing network could have profound implications for Humanity 3000.” For more, read Note: This paper was released in 2000.