Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why 2003 EL61 matters, earliest example of limb loss and signaling across space

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 - NASA released on Wednesday never-before-seen images that show the sun's magnetic field is much more turbulent and dynamic than previously known. The international spacecraft Hinode, formerly known as Solar B, took the images. See
g Abodes - In the outer reaches of the solar system, there is an object known as 2003 EL61 that looks like and spins like a football being drop-kicked over the proverbial goalpost of life. New findings could make it one of the most important of the Kuiper-belt objects for understanding the workings of the solar system. See
g Life - It wouldn't have been the easiest way to get around. A University of Alberta paleontologist has helped discover the existence of a 95 million-year-old snakelike marine animal, a finding that provides not only the earliest example of limb loss in lizards but also the first example of limb loss in an aquatic lizard. See
g Intelligence - While as recently as 20 years ago, scientists considered it taboo to describe animal behavior in the same terms as human thoughts and emotions, however, recent studies suggest that chimps and other primates have the ability to show empathy. See
g Message - When it comes to signaling across space, power is paramount. See Note: This article is from 2004.
g Learning - Scientists have, for the first time, induced difficulties with mathematics (dyscalculia) in subjects who normally find math easy. The study, which finds that the right parietal lobe is responsible for dyscalculia, potentially has implications for diagnosis and management through remedial teaching. See
g Aftermath - Book alert: As many Earthlings already know —including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience — our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that Brian McConnell’s “Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations,” an introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life, begins with some of the details behind the University of California-Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and — once some ET picks up on the other end — what we might say and how we might say it.