Sunday, January 06, 2008

Precursors of life orbiting distant star and looking for microorganisms on Titan

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 - Scientists have observed what they believe could be the precursors of life in the region around a distant star. See article.
g Abodes - The possibility of an asteroid walloping the planet Mars this month is whetting the appetites of Earth-bound scientists, even as they further refine the space rock's trajectory. See article.
g Life - Finding microorganisms on Titan - or anywhere in the universe - is no easy task. Titan has carbon-based molecules, for example, which is one of the necessary ingredients for life as we know it. But the recipe may be different there than it is here on Earth. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Message - The search for ET has cranked up and scientists need volunteers to help crunch a flood of new data from radio telescopes in California and Puerto Rico. See article.
g Imagining - Alien life has been one of the staples of science fiction since the origins of the genre, and Star Trek, one of its best-known examples, has hardly shied away from it. Yet, while the line above—taken from a memorable (if annoying) parody of the original series—has been indelibly linked to the Star Trek franchise, it is hardly representative of the life forms seen in its various incarnations on the big and small screen. For every unusual alien, be it a vaporous cloud or the silicon-based Horta, Star Trek featured dozens, if not hundreds, of humanoid aliens, differing from humans only through some combination of forehead ridges, crumpled noses, or pointed ears (and almost all speaking flawless English, of course.) Such are the limitations of the makeup and special effects budgets of a TV series, one might argue. Yet even the Star Wars epics, with budgets far larger than any television series, feature a menagerie of aliens not so dissimilar that they could not socialize together at the Mos Eisley cantina. See article.