Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yellow caution tape for stars, shortlist of stars where extraterrestrial life might be found and experimental magnetic shield

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 - Astronomers have laid down the cosmic equivalent of yellow "caution" tape around super hot stars, marking the zones where cooler stars are in danger of having their developing planets blasted away. See
g Abodes - Coral reefs, like tree rings, are natural archives of climate change. But oceanic corals also provide a faithful account of how people make use of land through history. See
g Life - The varying shapes of flowers found in tropical forests, from broadly blooming to delicately narrow, may have to do with what has stuck its nose in there to pollinate in past evolutionary eras. See
g Intelligence - Just why the outermost surface of our brains is covered in folds and wrinkles is a mystery to scientists, but a new tool is helping researchers see how these folds develop. See
g Message - A U.S. astronomer has announced her shortlist of stars where extraterrestrial life might be found. See
. For related story, see “Shortlist of stellar candidates for habitable worlds” at
g Cosmicus - A team of scientists are preparing to construct an experimental magnetic shield that could be used to protect astronauts from radiation during long-duration space missions and possibly while on the surface of the Moon and Mars. See
g Learning - We learn better when the material meshes with what we already know, according to a new study of rats that researchers say could help explain human learning. See http://www.livescience.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read John W. Campbell’s (writing as Don A. Stuart) short story, "Who Goes There?" it first appeared in August 1938’s Astounding magazine.
g Aftermath - In the last quarter of the 20th century, an international social movement — Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, and many of its most active members have been leading scientists. Modest efforts to detect radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials already have been made, both under government aegis and privately funded, and the technical means for a more vigorous search have been developed. If a CETI project were successful, linguists would suddenly have one or more utterly alien languages to study, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it. See