Saturday, September 01, 2007

Jupiter shielding Earth, bacteria rewriting genetic codes and medical spin-offs from space

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 - Mysterious waves that help transport the sun's energy out into space have been detected by scientists for the first time. See article.
g Abodes - The idea that the planet Jupiter acts to shield Earth from asteroids and comets has now been challenged. A new study shows that the presence of Jupiter does not necessarily lead to a lower impact rate for Earth and other planets in the inner Solar System. See article.
g Life - Spineless creatures of the world, watch out: Bacteria can slip their entire genetic codes into yours. See article.
g Intelligence - Humans walking on two legs consume only a quarter of the energy that chimpanzees use while “knuckle-walking” on all fours, according to a new study. See article.
g Message - How can SETI scientists be sure they’ve picked up intelligence and not just the cosmic gurgle of a completely natural object? How can they know they’re not merely harkening to the ticking beat of a pulsar, the whoosh of a quasar or perhaps the lasing bray of a molecular gas cloud? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - What do you think blast-off does to your blood pressure? When Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space almost four decades ago, Project Mercury scientists had to invent an automatic measuring device to find out. Today, you can find the device in just about any drugstore for an instant check-up. It is just one of an ever-growing number of medical spin-offs from space. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of lessons and activities, courtesy of NASA, aimed at introduce K-4 students to space science. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology and cultures? Scour your used bookstore or local library for Robert Holdstock’s “Eye Among the Blind” (1976), in which an anthropologist becomes identified with an alien culture.
g Aftermath - Here’s another "old" piece worth reading: "Consequences of Success in SETI: Lessons from the History of Science" given during a Bioastronomy Symposium in 1993.