Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Asteroids that threaten Earth, vision’s origin and First Contact, Sort Of’

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 - Using Earth-based telescopes, researchers have determined the composition of a near-Earth asteroid that will pass close to the Earth in the future. The research is a test case for studying Earth-bound asteroids that may pose a threat to life's future on our planet. See article.
g Life - Scientists have discovered the early origin of genes for vision in animals. See article.
g Intelligence - The brain is a collection of about 10 billion interconnected neurons. Each neuron is a cell that uses biochemical reactions to receive, process and transmit information. See article.
g Message - How scientifically accurate was the ultimate astrobiology film, “Contact”? See article.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: "For all our feelings of self importance, we are only a kind of biological rust, clinging to the surface of our small planet, and weighing far less than the air that surrounds us.” – Carl Sagan
g Learning - Here’s a neat new book for kids (ages 10-up): “Astrobiology”, by Fred Bortz.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Carol Car and Karen Haber’s short story "First Contact, Sort of" appearing in the anthology “The Ultimate Alien” (edited by Keith R. A. DeCandido, John Betancourt and Byron Preiss; published by Dell in 1995).
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, writes Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See article.

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