Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mars’ water ice deposits, universal fear of aliens and why weightlessness isn’t weird

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 Abodes - By combining data from Mars Express and Mars climate models, scientists are gaining new knowledge about the behavior of water ice deposits at the South Pole of Mars. See article.
g Message - Will universal fear doom SETI to a continuation of the Great Silence? In a response to David Brin’s Zoo Hypothesis argument (see http://brin-l.stock-consulting.com/downloads/silence.pdf), here’s a SETI League editorial: http://www.setileague.org/editor/wimps.htm.
g Cosmicus - Many people think that weightlessness is a strange and even dangerous condition, but there's nothing particularly weird about it. Anyone can experience it (briefly!) by just jumping into the air, or for up to about a second by jumping off a wall. While you're airborne your body is in weightlessness. Trampolinists and high divers experience weightlessness for up to a few seconds. See http://www.spacefuture.com/habitat/zerog.shtml.
g Learning - Looking for an overview of the astrobiological field? Try "Introduction to Exobiology" (http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/), which explores the field from a lay perspective and includes a self-test. It's part of the Cruising Chemistry project at Duke.
g Imagining - While I’m researching our next alien, browse the local used bookstores for this volume, which examined the scientific plausibility of many alien creatures in “Star Trek”: “To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek.” Published about four years ago, Athena Andreadis' book makes a good read, boosted by her background as a molecular biologist and neurosurgeon. There’s a review of the book at http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/sf_and_society/48298.
g Aftermath - Here’s an interesting, albeit “older,” personal essay that appeared right after “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the original “Star Wars” came out, which appeared in “Theology Today” about what organized religion should do in light of the growing belief of alien’s existence. See http://www.obspm.fr/encycl/encycl.html.

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