Friday, December 29, 2006

Microbes in frigid lakes, teaching old rovers new tricks and contact’s affect on humanity

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 - With the help of enormous computer simulations, astronomers have now shown that the first generation of stars - which have never been observed by scientists - should be distributed evenly throughout our galaxy, deepening the long-standing mystery about these missing stellar ancestors. The results are published in the Astrophysical Journal. See article.
g Life - Life manages to hang on pretty much anywhere on Earth where there's liquid water. Ice-covered lakes in Antarctica are no exception. But to study the microbes that hang out down under the ice, researchers have to do some risky diving. Dale Andersen is a pioneer of the technique. See
. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Message - It has become somewhat accepted that an extrasolar contact could be interpreted as a good “artificial” signal if it arose from certain branches of mathematics. If another galactic civilization decided to reach us, they would send a beacon of bleeps akin to the digits of “pi” or only prime numbers, because they would realize that no natural process could mimic them. Renowned author and MacArthur “genius” award winner, Stephen Wolfram, argues for a new kind of science, and argues that the line between “artificial” and “natural” signals is not nearly so clear as first supposed. See http://www.astrobionet/news/article860.html. Note: This article is from March 2004.
g Cosmicus - NASA's twin Mars rovers, nearing the third anniversary of their landings, are getting smarter as they get older. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site to introduce kids who go ga-ga over movie aliens to the science of astrobiology: http://www.river
g Imagining - England's Astronomer Royal says he believes aliens could exist, possibly as balloon-like creatures floating in dense atmospheres. See
g Aftermath - What would be the affect on humanity following contact with alien life? Portions of a Brookings Institute report offer some insights. See for either the entire report or the relevant excerpts.