Wednesday, June 13, 2007

261 red dwarfs within 10 parsecs, NASA’s six canonical questions and ‘Evolving the 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 Stars -More than 261 "M" main-sequence, red dwarf stars are currently believed to be located within 10 parsecs (pc) - ­ or 32.6 light-years - of Sol. Thus, at least two-thirds (70 percent) of more than 370 stars and white and brown dwarfs found thus far to be located within 10 pc are very dim red dwarfs. At least 40 percent of some 260 red dwarfs have been identified as flare and variable stars, and so are likely to be "young" enough to be rotating rapidly and generating a dynamic magnetic field. However, all are much dimmer, smaller, and less massive than Sol. See article.
g Abodes - Quote of the Day: “The Earth is blue.” – Yuri Gagarin
g Life - The puzzling pose of many fossilized dinosaurs may be due to the agonizing death throes typical of brain damage and asphyxiation. Understanding the causes leading to this posture in fossils could provide information about the Earth's climate when the dinosaurs went extinct. See
g Cosmicus - SpaceDev says the results of its lunar exploration study indicate that a more comprehensive series of missions could be completed in a fraction of the time for one-tenth of the cost vs. NASA's recently announced plans. See
g Learning - Theorizing and model building are one thing; it is another to go out and get data that will support science and the acquisition of new knowledge. For this purpose, NASA has instituted its Astrobiology Program to study the origin, evolution, distribution, and destiny of life in the universe. Existing programs and new endeavors will be brought together in a multidisciplinary fashion to tackle the questions surrounding life's place in the organization of the universe. In so doing, NASA has adopted six canonical questions to use as guideposts as its programs are developed. See Note: This article is from 1999.
g Imagining - Book alert: What would life on other planets look like? Forget the little green men, alien life is likely to be completely unrecognizable - we haven’t even discovered all the life on our own planet. The visionary “Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life,” by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, offers some of the most radical but scientifically accurate thinking on the possibility of life on other planets ever conceived. Using broad principles of Earthly biology and expanding on them laterally, Cohen and Stewart examine what could be out there. Redefining our whole concept of what ‘life’ is, they ask whether aliens could live on the surface of a star, in the vacuum of space or beneath the ice of a frozen moon. And whether life could exist without carbon or DNA – or even without matter at all. They also look at ‘celebrity aliens’ from books and films – most of which are biologically impossible. Jack Cohen is an ‘alien consultant’ to many writers, advising what an alien could and couldn’t look like. (E.T. go home – you do not pass the test). But this book is as much about the latest discoveries in Earthly biology as well as life on other planets. It’s a serious yet entertaining science book. See article.

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