Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturn's polar vortex, Earth’s biggest mass extinction and inhabiting bodies of distant robots

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 - Cassini's spectacular image of Saturn's polar vortex, published this month by NASA, may provide astronomers with a missing piece in the puzzle of how that planet's atmosphere works. For planetary scientists studying Venus, the image was strangely familiar. See
g Life - The Earth experienced its biggest mass extinction about 250 million years ago, an event that wiped out an estimated 95% of marine species and 70% of land species. New research shows that this mass extinction did more than eliminate species: it fundamentally changed the basic ecology of the world's oceans. See
g Intelligence - A pair of new, immersive technologies allows a person to "inhabit" the body of a distant robot in an experiment conducted in Germany. See
g Message - In August 1977, a sky survey conducted with Ohio State University's "Big Ear" radio telescope found what has become known as the “Wow” signal. Registering enormous signal strength, the shape of the signal had the characteristic rise and fall expected for its short 72-second lifetime. But a hitch remains: The signal has not been retrieved from other sky surveys, making it more anomaly than confirmable cosmic source. See

mode=thread&order=0&thold=0%0A. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Learning - Here’s a neat lesson plan, “E.T. Can’t Phone Home,” that teaches some basic principles of astronomy:
g Imagining - Can life ever be noncorporeal, as are Star Trek’s Organians? See
g Aftermath - Here’s something I dug up from the Toronto Star: A 2002 article, headlined “Discovery Of Extraterrestrial Life Could Have Profound Impact On Religion,” by reporter on the religion beat. See (Sorry that it comes from one of those dreadful UFO Web sites, but this was the only spot I could find it archived for free and in its entirety.).