Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Galaxy’s red glow, Earth’s early magnetic field and Dawn arrives in Florida

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 - Scientists have solved a decades-long mystery of a red glow that permeates our Milky Way Galaxy and other galaxies. See
g Abodes - Earth's magnetic field was at least half as strong 3.2 billion years ago as it is today, researchers report. That means the planet was pretty well protected way back then from solar output that could otherwise have stripped away the atmosphere and doused early living organisms with lethal radiation. See
g Life - Bacteria can “talk” to each other: by using signal substances they inform their neighbors as to whether or not it is worth switching certain genes on or off. This communication between bacterial cells is essential for the adaptation to changing environments and for the survival. What exactly do bacteria learn from the signal substances? See
g Intelligence - A discovery could shed light "on how fear is generated in the first place" and how people can potentially better manage phobias, researcher Ajai Vyas, a Stanford University neuroscientist, told LiveScience. See
g Message - Humankind has been unintentionally transmitting signals into space - primarily high-frequency radio, television, and radar - for more than fifty years. Our earliest TV broadcasts have reached several thousand nearby stars, although any alien viewers would have to build a very large antenna (thousands of acres in size) to detect them. See
g Cosmicus - The Dawn spacecraft arrived at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla., at 9 a.m. EDT Tuesday. Dawn, NASA's mission into the heart of the asteroid belt, is at the facility for final processing and launch operations. Dawn's launch period opens June 30. See
g Learning - Are we alone? Are humans unique in the universe, or is our existence the natural outcome of universal processes that produced complex life on Earth and elsewhere? As we observe the universe beyond Earth, we find that we are fundamentally a part of it. To understand the relationship of humanity to stardust requires understanding evolution in its broadest sense. See Note: This article on teaching evolution in schools is from January 2001.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” (1970) and the sequel, “Ringworld Engineers” (1980).
g Aftermath - A wide variety of steps should be taken to help the social sciences increase their visibility, status and contribution within the SETI field. The impact of social scientists will be profound if they contribute fresh ideas about the nature of ETI and how to detect it, bold insights into the variety of human reactions if the search succeeds, and far- sighted scenarios of humanity’s eventual relations with extraterrestrial intelligence. The quality of their thought, the ingenuity of their research designs and the depth of their findings will, in the long run, be particularly significant factors in their contribution to the SETI field. See