Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ancient star, Martian volcanic deposit and best robotic Moon dirt diggers

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 - An international team of astronomers recently measured the age of an ancient star in our Milky Way galaxy at an extraordinary 13.2 billion years. This measurement provides a lower limit to the age of the universe and will help to disentangle the chemical history of our galaxy. See
g Abodes - NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has discovered evidence of an ancient volcanic explosion at "Home Plate," a plateau of layered bedrock approximately 6 feet high within the "Inner Basin" of Columbia Hills, at the rover's landing site in Gusev Crater. This is the first explosive volcanic deposit identified with a high degree of confidence by Spirit or its twin, Opportunity. See
g Life - Scientists are working hard to understand the sources of a staggering decline in honeybees in as many as 27 U.S. states and countries in Europe and Asia this winter. See
g Intelligence - Gambling is a risky activity that can potentially result in the loss of a significant amount of money. A study published in the journal SLEEP finds that sleep deprivation can adversely affect a person's decision-making at a gambling table by elevating the expectation of gains and making light of one's losses following risky decisions. See
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. See for the program.
g Cosmicus - Six teams from across the country are headed for a rumble in California today, where $250,000 in NASA prize money awaits the best robotic Moon dirt diggers. See
g Learning - Nationally, there's political pressure to improve K-12 education. The federal mandate known as 'No Child Left Behind' drives schools to focus on basics: reading, writing and arithmetic in order to improve student test scores in these areas. Art, music, social studies, science, etc. are pushed aside in the paper chase generated by standardized tests. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Murray Leinster’s short story "The Castaway,” published in the June 1953 edition of Universe magazine.
g Aftermath - If we hear from ET, not only can we expect his civilization to be an old one with a great time lag in correspondence, a SETI astronomer says. Could this limit the impact of extraterrestrial contact upon humanity? See
. Note: This article is from December 2001.