Sunday, April 29, 2007

‘Scientists Debate Gaia,’ human brain’s origin and the unlikeliness of anthropomorphic aliens

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 giant cloud of superheated gas 6 million light years wide might be formed by the collective sigh of several supermassive black holes, scientists say. See
g Abodes - In this book review of "Scientists Debate Gaia," Charley Lineweaver discusses what astrobiology and the Gaia hypothesis have in common. Both are trying to recognize new forms of life by seeking universal connections between different kinds of systems. See
g Life - Parasites are by definition bad for you. Some, such as malaria, can kill. Others, like microbes known as Wolbachia that are found in more than one-fifth of all insects, often make female hosts less fertile. Now scientists discover parasites can evolve surprisingly rapidly to become helpful instead of harmful. See
g Intelligence - The origin of the human brain has been traced back to primitive central nervous systems in worms and bugs, researchers now say. See
g Message - Swiss scientist Michel Mayor, who heads the European team that announced the discovery of a new potentially habitable planet, has his sights set on an even bigger target, detecting signs of extraterrestrial life. Mayor predicts that top researchers are less than two decades away from being able to detect real signs of such life - if it exists. See
g Cosmicus - Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has been granted a five-year license to launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Station, the U.S. Air Force Space Command announced April 26.
g Learning - Along with personality and peer relationships, a school’s culture also influences whether a child resolves an issue peacefully or goes off the deep end and resorts to violence, a new study finds. See
g Imagining - Hollywood loves movies about extraterrestrials, but most silver screen aliens - from E.T. to Star Wars - are remarkably anthropomorphic. Scientists say the real aliens may be far stranger than we think. Find out why intelligent life elsewhere in the universe won't resemble Tinseltown's take. See http://www.podcasting
for a podcast of this SETI Institute “Are We Alone?” program.
g Aftermath - How's your math? Well, you may want to brush up on it - that is, if you hope to be conversant with ET. Scientists say that any signal we receive from intelligent life is rather unlikely to be in English, but in the language of math. Find out why algebra truly may be an alien concept - just as you suspected in high school - and what a message from another planet might be. See http://www.podcasting
for a podcast of this SETI Institute “Are We Alone?” program.