Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dwarf galaxy, magnetic reconnection and societal implications of astrobiology

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 - An Australian scientist says a "giant" galaxy 140 million light years from Earth is actually a much closer "dwarf" galaxy. See
g Abodes - Plasma physicists have made an unprecedented measurement in their study of the Earth's magnetic field. Thanks to the European Space Agency's Cluster satellites they detected an electric field thought to be a key element in the process of “magnetic reconnection.” See
g Life - Fossil remains have revealed a new svelte, squirrel-like mammal that scurried around in the wee hours of the night snagging insects and worms about 125 million years ago. See
g Message - Recent discussions within the SETI community have thoroughly explored the issue of whether people with access to radio telescopes should send powerful signals to alien civilizations without some process of prior international consultation. In particular, those exchanges have focused on the question of "Active SETI." See
g Learning - "Teacher, why do I need to learn this?" "What’s it good for?" Students ask these questions when faced with content that seems unrelated to their lives. Motivating students is fundamental to promoting achievement in any classroom, even in science, which encompasses the entire natural world, the whole universe. Good questions and quality experiences support science learning for all students, not just those who are already science-friendly. The relatively new discipline of astrobiology asks great questions that intrigue students. See
g Aftermath - What are the societal implications of astrobiology? A NASA workshop in 1999 set out to determine what they might be. Here’s their report: