Sunday, November 04, 2007

Comet in solar hurricane, if the Earth had no moon and Cosmic Visions

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 - STEREO has captured the first images of a collision between a comet and a solar hurricane. It is the first time scientists have witnessed such an event on another cosmic body. STEREO recorded the event April 20. See article.
g Abodes - Bernard Foing looks at the effect the Moon has had on the Earth, and explores how different our world would be if we had no planetary companion. See article.
g Life - New research on enantiomers—mirror image chemical structures that have nearly identical physical and chemical properties and are difficult to separate—demonstrates how, in the presence of a strong magnetic field, enantiomers of the sugars ribose and glucose will interact selectively and differentially with water molecules that contain the 17O isotope. See article.
g Cosmicus - The European Space Agency has announced the results of its Cosmic Visions 2015-2025 call for proposals. Fifty space science missions for the next decade were proposed, with just seven selected. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat set of expert talks about various concepts of astrobiology, intended for high school and older audiences, all courtesy of NASA. Note: Most of these lectures are from 1999.
g Aftermath - Movie aliens often are like distant relatives: They resemble us in an unpleasant sort of way. This is hardly a surprise. Hollywood creates characters that audiences can identify with, and that’s why its aliens are so anthropomorphic (and why Donald Duck looks more like a human than a duck.) But appearances aside, cinema aliens have another implausible attribute: they’re nearly always at our level of technical sophistication. We frequently trade gunfire with them or chase them around in dogfights. This is silly, of course. Any beings capable of bridging the vast distances between the stars would be able to clean our clock when it comes to science and engineering. Visitors from other worlds — should any appear — would be enormously ahead of us from a technological viewpoint. See article. Note: This article is from 2000.

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