Friday, October 26, 2007

Icy particles spraying from Enceladus, mirror neurons and picking up intelligence amid the cosmic gurgle

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 - New data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft provides conclusive evidence that jets of icy particles spraying from Enceladus originate from hot spots on fractures that straddle the moon's south polar region. Enceladus caused a stir in 2005 when the jets were first found and scientists thought they might indicate liquid water beneath the moon's surface. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers at UCLA found that cells in the human anterior cingulate, which normally fire when you poke the patient with a needle ("pain neurons"), will also fire when the patient watches another patient being poked. The mirror neurons, it would seem, dissolve the barrier between self and others. See article.
g Message - How can we be sure scientists listening to noise from space have picked up intelligence, and not just the cosmic gurgle of a completely natural object? See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: “Humankind might consider it not impossible that we should go into the galaxy with the intention of becoming its consciousness.” — Brian Aldiss
g Learning - Theorizing and model building are one thing; it is another to go out and get data that will support science and the acquisition of new knowledge. For this purpose, NASA has instituted its Astrobiology Program to study the origin, evolution, distribution, and destiny of life in the universe. Existing programs and new endeavors will be brought together in a multidisciplinary fashion to tackle the questions surrounding life's place in the organization of the universe. In so doing, NASA has adopted six canonical questions to use as guideposts as its programs are developed. See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Imagining - Here’s the indispensable book on science fiction aliens: “Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials: Great Aliens from Science Fiction Literature.” Having been out a few years now, it may not be on your local bookstore’s shelves. For a peek inside the book (and ordering information), see article.

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