Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Life around M dwarf stars, Mega-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay and microorganisms in Venus’ battery-acid clouds

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 - A group of scientists believe M dwarf stars shouldn’t be so easily dismissed as havens for extraterrestrial life. See
g Abodes - For the first time ever, NASA researchers have successfully demonstrated in the laboratory that a space telescope rigged with special masks and mirrors could snap a photo of an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. This accomplishment marks a dramatic step forward for missions like the proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder, designed to hunt for an Earth twin that might harbor life. See
g Life - Spiders love to fly. Hundreds can touch down in an acre of land on a day when conditions are right. And before casting out a silk thread and swooping miles through the air, a spider checks the weather just as a human pilot might do during a pre-flight routine, a new study finds. See
g Intelligence - A woman prefers a more masculine man when she is fertile and looking for a fling rather than a mate for life, according to a new study. See
g Message - SETI research isn’t limited to a single facility listening to radio signals. Another dimension of the program is The Mega-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay, which searched the Southern Hemisphere's skies briefly during the 1990s. To learn more about it, see
g Cosmicus - Every month the Moon passes through the magnetic field of the Earth and becomes charged with static electricity. A new model suggests that this charging may increase after the year 2012, which could have implications for human lunar missions that are currently being planned for around 2020. See
g Learning - If science communications in astrobiology is about researchers sharing their results, the audience for new findings may well turn out to be a surprising finding in itself. John Horack, one of the principal Internet architects for how a Webby-award winning NASA site found its audience, explains new ways to view the problem of sharing science. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Imagining - Venus's battery-acid clouds might very well support microbial life - like the "extremophile" microorganisms that Earth scientists have found thriving near volcano outflows. See Note: This article is from 2004.
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising form the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See