Friday, December 07, 2007

Titan's dune seas, motor neurons and a culture of feline aliens

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 - Imagine two stars with winds so powerful that they eject an Earth's worth of material roughly once every month. Next, imagine those two winds colliding head-on. Such titanic collisions produce multimillion-degree gas, which radiates brilliantly in X-rays. Astronomers have conclusively identified the X-rays from about two-dozen of these systems in our Milky Way. But they have never seen one outside our galaxy - until now. See article. Note: This article is from February 2007.
g Abodes - Through the obscuring haze come glimpses of Titan's dune seas. The dark, equatorial region known as Shangri-la is visible. Radar images show that Shangri-la and other dark regions around the moon's middle are filled with vast stretches of parallel dunes. See article.
g Life - Newly launched nerve cells in a growing embryo must chart their course to distant destinations, and many of the means they use to navigate have yet to surface. In a study published in the current issue of the journal Neuron, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have recovered a key signal that guides motor neurons - the nascent cells that extend from the spinal cord and must find their way down the length of limbs such as arms, wings and legs. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien anthropology/cultures? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Mary Gentle’s “Golden Witchbreed” (1983) and “Ancient Light” (1987), which examines a culture of feline aliens.

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