Saturday, March 17, 2007

Martian soil sample, species evolution in warm climates and ‘In Cosmic Company’

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 - Whilst science fiction toys effortlessly with anti-matter, in reality it can be very hard to produce, so researchers around the world are celebrating a new break through in this area. For the first time, scientists using the BaBar experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center have observed the transition of one type of particle, the neutral D-meson, into its antimatter particle - a process known as “mixing.” The new observation will be used as a test of the Standard Model, the current theory that best describes the entire universe's luminous matter and its associated forces. See
g Abodes - Some bright Martian soil containing lots of sulfur and a trace of water intrigues researchers who are studying information provided by NASA's Spirit rover. See
g Life - University of British Columbia researchers have discovered that contrary to common belief, species do not evolve faster in warmer climates. See
g Intelligence - Female chimps manage how available they are, as a group, for sex. This leads males to fight over them, and when the best males win, the females are more likely to have fit offspring, new research shows. See
g Message - If extraterrestrials are out there, signals that would prove their existence are cascading over your body right now. Needless to say, you don’t notice. The challenge for SETI researchers is to build an instrument that will. Rising to the challenge, the SETI Institute and others are developing new search strategies and telescopes, encouraging some scientists to speculate that a signal detection will occur in the next decade or two. See
g Cosmicus - Because we are planetary creatures, most people assume the first and most numerous space settlements must be on the Moon or Mars. In fact, we may live in orbit long before settling the Moon or Mars, and there may always be far more space settlers in orbit than on any planet or moon. Orbital settlements are huge spacecraft, big enough for many thousands to live in comfortably, that provide radiation protection, a breathable atmosphere, nearly self-sufficient life support, and that rotate to provide something that feels much like Earth-normal gravity at the rim. See
g Learning - The space station's connecting module that will serve as the gateway to international science laboratories has been given a name - Harmony - following a nationwide contest for schoolchildren. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Richard F. Monteleone and David F. Bischoff’s novel, “Day of the Dragonstar,” published in 1983.
g Aftermath - Book alert: In their November 2003 book "In Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe," authors Seth Shostak and Alex Barnett ponder the possibility of alien life and the consequences of receiving a signal from the cosmos. They explain why scientists think sentient life might exist on other worlds, how we could discover it and what it might be like. Entertaining and informative, this hard cover book is lavishly illustrated. See
for reviews.