Sunday, July 29, 2007

Looking at chemical isotopes to find life, trying to rehear ‘Wow!’ signal and introducing kids to astrobiology

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 -The orbiting X-ray telescopes XMM-Newton and Chandra have caught a pair of galaxy clusters merging into a giant cluster. The discovery adds to existing evidence that galaxy clusters can collide faster than previously thought. See
g Abodes -Boston University researchers have published the first clear evidence of how gases from volcanoes on a tiny moon of Jupiter can lead to the largest visible gas cloud in the solar system. See
g Life -For Clark Johnson, the quest to see if life might exist elsewhere in the universe begins by looking at chemical isotopes - different forms of the same chemical element. See
g Message -Veteran "Wow!" signal hunter Robert Gray recently turned south in his efforts to track down the elusive signal. In collaboration with the University of Tasmania, Gray used the 26-meter dish in Hobart, Tasmania, to record radio signals from the "Wow!" location for long hours at a time. See what they found at
g Cosmicus -The House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee has recommended that NASA receive an 8.2 percent increase in its FY 2008 budget. Under this bill, now being considered on the House floor, NASA's science budget would increase 4.2 percent. See
g Learning -Here’s a neat Web site to introduce kids who go ga-ga over movie aliens to the science of astrobiology: http://www.river
g Imagining - While science fiction can prove remarkably accurate on technological development, it falls well short of reality when it comes to biology and behavior. Many of the bug-eyed monsters we see depicted in movies, books and comics are not only very unlikely but also completely unfeasible. And aliens all too often are charmingly naive about such things as violence and love. See http://www.ibiblio./org/astrobiology/print.php?page=concepts01. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Aftermath -We humans are familiar with the back-and-forth of face-to-face contact — something we likely will not have in an interstellar conversation. The timescale of a human life may well not be enough for a meaningful dialogue with another species. Interstellar dialogue may make sense only across generations. See