Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dust in the wind, star system where Earth-like planet is likely forming and universal evolutionary biomarkers

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 hit song that proclaimed, "All we are is dust in the wind," may have some cosmic truth to it. New findings from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that space dust - the same stuff that makes up living creatures and planets - was manufactured in large quantities in the winds of black holes that populated our early universe. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers have spotted a star system 424 light-years away where they think an Earth-like planet is likely forming. They've found a belt of warm dust that has enough mass to form a planet the size of Mars or larger. See article.
g Life - In view of the substantial challenges ahead in instrumentation and trials on Earth analogs, we must now begin to plan a second generation of feasible evolutionary experiments with whole microorganisms. In those new experiments universal evolutionary biomarkers should be searched for. See article.
g Message - The first episode of “I Love Lucy” was broadcast sometime on Oct. 15, 1951. About 0.0002 seconds later, the signal glided over the rooftops of the farthest city suburbs, and headed into space. It’s still going. Every day, that first installment passes through an additional 4 thousand trillion trillion trillion cubic kilometers of the cosmos. Given that stars in our galactic neighborhood are separated by about 4 light-years, it’s easy to figure that roughly 10 thousand star systems have been exposed to “I Love Lucy” in the past five decades. That may suggest a high Nielson rating, but the chance that extraterrestrials are now hooked on 1950s television is low. See article.
g Cosmicus - Fifty years ago, science fiction became science fact. On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union, having worked in complete secrecy, launched Sputnik I. Humankind's first man-made satellite, a tiny ball that beeped its presence as it orbited the globe, shocked the world and set in motion a new age. See article.
g Learning - A computer program called Second Life provides educators with unique opportunities to connect with students in a virtual landscape – including astrobiology. See article.
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Isaac Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves” (published by Ballentine in 1972).
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. Note: This article is from 2003. See article.

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