Monday, March 12, 2007

Massive star’s explosive death, robot helps explain evolution, and plausibility of interstellar communication

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 - The explosive death of a massive star has broken the record for longest-lived light show. Observations from NASA’s Swift satellite have revealed a so-called gamma-ray burst for which the afterglow remained visible for more than 125 days. See
g Life - A robot that slinks along the ground and winds through water like a salamander is helping scientists understand how animals walked from aquatic environments onto land millions of years ago. See
g Intelligence - Genetics could explain why some women are more ill tempered than others. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of lessons, designed for at-risk students: “The Plausibility of Interstellar Communication and Related Phenomena Depicted in Science Fiction Literature and the Movies.” The curriculum has four major objectives: first, to educate students to develop concepts about the proximity of our solar system in relation to other probable solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy; second, to give students the opportunity to use these concepts to evaluate the plausibility of interstellar communication depicted in science fiction literature and movies; third, to create an opportunity for students not only to look out on the universe but to turn it inward to look at the world, their own society, and themselves as individuals; and fourth, an objective that will be integrated with all of the others is to give students to opportunity to learn and/or sharpen skills in: using the scientific method, research, reading, writing, collaboration, discussion and in critical thinking. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Carol Car and Karen Haber’s short story "First Contact, Sort of" appearing in the anthology “The Ultimate Alien” (edited by Keith R. A. DeCandido, John Betancourt and Byron Preiss; published by Dell in 1995).