Monday, April 16, 2007

Habitable planets around M dwarf stars, one year at Venus and evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth

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 - There’s considerable interest in the question of whether M-Stars could host habitable planets. Would the planets be tidally locked with one face always directed toward the M-Star? Would flares wipe out life on the local planet? If M-Stars could host habitable planets, life may be much more widespread that we’ve previously thought. Thus, M-Stars are of interest to astrobiologists including SETI scientists who are searching for life beyond Earth. See
g Abodes - Venus Express has now spent one year collecting planetary data on Venus, one of the most mysterious planets in the Solar System. The spacecraft is studying aspects of Venus' complex atmosphere as well as searching for active volcanism on the planet's surface. See
g Life - Remnants from a cave embedded in a limestone quarry southwest of Chicago have yielded a fossil trove that may influence the known history of north central Illinois some 310 million years ago. See
g Intelligence - While the government spends billions of dollars on educational and prevention programs to persuade teens not to do things like smoke, drink or do drugs, a Temple University psychologist suggests that competing systems within the brain make adolescents more susceptible to engaging in risky or dangerous behavior, and that educational interventions alone are unlikely to be effective. See
g Message - Here’s a neat radio interview on the program “Earth and Sky,” about scientists looking for evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth. See Note: The interview is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - The U.S. civil space exploration program is a matter of national strategy. But the country’s space policy - of returning to the Moon, trekking onward to Mars and beyond - needs to fly high above partisan bickering. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site from NASA: A curriculum framework for comparing Earth to other planets with regard to life. See
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for any of these fine novels by James White: “Hospital Station” (1962), “Star Surgeon” (1963), “Ambulance Ship” (1979), “Sector General” (1983) and “Code Blue–Emergency” (1987).