Friday, April 06, 2007

Rocco’s Lab, Mars 500 and ‘How to Build an Alien’

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 Life - Virginia Woolf once famously said, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." It might as accurately be said that a scientist must have funding and a lab of her/his own. In the summer of 2004 the nearly 50 Carl Sagan Center scientists of the SETI Institute moved to a new facility with three vacant laboratory spaces and instantly acquired entire new vistas of research. One of those laboratories has been fully outfitted and operational for nearly six months now. That has made all the difference to Dr. Rocco Mancinelli and the other astrobiologists who analyze their samples in the Microbial Ecology and Molecular Microbiology Laboratory-Lab 2 or simply ‘Rocco’s lab” to friends. See
g Message - Because of the ability to study many areas on the sky at once, with more channels and for 24 hours a day, the Allen Telescope Array will permit an expansion from SETI’s last stellar reconnaissance of 1,000 stars to 100 thousand or even 1 million nearby stars. See
g Cosmicus - Europe is preparing for Mars by sending a crew of six on a simulated Mars mission for 500 days. The mission will help pave the way for future missions to the Moon and Mars by providing important insight into the psychological and medical aspects of long-duration spaceflight. See
g Learning - “Curious Minds: How a Child Becomes a Scientist,” edited by John Brockman, is a fascinating and original collection of essays from 27 of the world’s most interesting scientists about the moments and events in their childhoods that set them on the paths that would define their lives. See
g Imagining - Many science fiction story lines involve alien life forms. From a literary prospective, aliens often serve as metaphors for something more familiar. From a practical prospective, they make stories more interesting and TV more eye-catching. But what of scientific accuracy? A professor offers his advice about "How to Build an Alien" at
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See Note: This article is from 2001.