Monday, September 17, 2007

Martian ice ages, broadcasting signals into outer space and how proof of extraterrestrial intelligence might affect humanity’s ‘world’ view

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 - Colorful, intricate shapes in new NASA Hubble Space Telescope images reveal how the glowing gas ejected by dying Sun-like stars evolves dramatically over time. See article.
g Abodes - Wobbles in the rotation of Mars swung the planet into about 40 extreme ice ages in the past 5 million years and allowed thick ice layers to remain far away from the poles, an astronomer says. See article.
g Life - Samples of microorganisms and antibodies will be sent into near-Earth orbit this week and exposed to the extreme conditions of space. Such experiments can indicate whether life could travel in meteorites from one planet to another. See article.
g Message - Since the invention of the radio, humans have been broadcasting signals into outer space. Other civilizations in our galaxy might be doing the same. They might even be deliberately sending out signals to find other civilizations. Someone out there may even be beaming a signal directly at the Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - Google, the popular Internet search engine, joined with the X Prize Foundation on Thursday to offer up to $30 million in a competition for privately financed groups to reach the moon with robotic rovers. See article.
g Learning - A research team has discovered a part of the brain crucial for counting and performing arithmetic. The new finding could lead to a better understanding of dyscalculia, a psychological disorder that makes it nearly impossible to deal with numbers, much less complicated math. See article. Note: This article is from early 2006.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Lee Killough’s "The Lying Ear," anthologized in “Alien Encounters” (edited by Jan Finder).
g Aftermath - How would proof of extraterrestrial intelligence affect humanity’s “world” view? Astronomer Steve Dick discusses the matter in this transcribed Smithsonian Institute lecture, from 1999.