Thursday, December 06, 2007

What causes supernovae, ambiguous searches for Martians and how plants protect themselves from sunburn

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 - A supernova observed last year was so bright - about 100 times as luminous as a typical supernova - that it challenged the theoretical understanding of what causes supernovae. See article.
g Abodes - Mars is often suggested as a good location to search for alien life. Despite many missions to the red planet, it's still a mystery whether life existed there in the distant past or if it is thriving there today. Attempting to answer this question was an aim of the Viking missions of 1976, but the results of those experiments were frustratingly ambiguous. See article.
g Life - A team of researchers has discovered how plants protect their leaves from damage by sunlight when they are faced with extreme climates. The new findings, which have been published in Nature, could have implications both for adapting plants to the threat of global warming and for helping man better harness solar energy. See article.
g Intelligence - Children as young as 6 months old have detailed memories that can persist for a year or more, researchers reported at a conference in San Francisco. See article.
g Cosmicus - When NASA made deep cuts last year to its budget for research grants, scientists whose livelihoods depend on receiving a share of the roughly $175 million in awards the U.S. space agency disburses each year screamed bloody murder. See article.

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