Friday, May 04, 2007

Planetary climate catastrophes, rock-etching microorganisms and ‘After Contact, Then What?’

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 - Studying our solar neighbors, Mars and Venus, can provide climate scientists with valuable insights into the way climate catastrophes affect planets. The knowledge that scientists are gaining from current missions like Mars Express and Venus Express may help us understand the future of life on our planet. See
g Abodes - Micron-sized cavities created by the actions of rock-etching microorganisms known as euendoliths are explored as a biosignature for life on early Earth and perhaps Mars. Rock-dwelling organisms can tolerate extreme environmental stresses and are excellent candidates for the colonization of early Earth and planetary surfaces. See
g Intelligence - If you’re looking for a quick memory fix, move your eyes from side-to-side for 30 seconds, researchers say. See
g Message - The next generation of big radio telescopes won't look anything like today's massive dishes. Instead of giant steel constructions towering into the sky, the future will belong to more economical arrays of many small antennas hugging the ground. And, in a historic role reversal, searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence are blazing a trail for conventional radio astronomy to follow. See
g Learning - From Astrobiology Magazine, European Edition comes a story of a now legendary meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. On June 30, 1860, Darwin’s Bulldog, Thomas Huxley, strode into the meeting and faced a large and eager audience. His opponent for the evening was Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford - a fervent public speaker who was nicknamed Soapy Sam for his habit of rubbing his hands together as he sermonized. But Wilberforce was about to meet his match. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Jeff Berkwits’ story "First Contact," which appeared in the August 1996 issue of “Keen!”
g Aftermath - Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” ( shows how little we’ve thought about this question.