Friday, March 21, 2008

Amino acid concentrations in meteorites and how to tell if life once existed on a planet

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 - A new study shows that meteorites may contain concentrations of amino acids that are 10 times higher than levels previously measured. This means the early Solar System was quite rich in the organic building blocks of life, and that fallout from space may have played a role in life's origin on Earth. See article.
g Life - If life were suddenly eliminated from the Earth, would a visitor from another planet be able to tell what once was here? Can the landforms of Mars tell us whether it once had a biota? Two UC Berkeley scientists conclude that life leaves a detectable but very subtle signature, including more rounded than angular hills. This was a surprise, since life has a big impact on erosion, both directly and through its effects on climate. See article.
g Message - Could intelligent beings in another solar system have hidden their sun by knocking their planets apart and using the pieces to build a hollow ball around their sun? See article.
g Cosmicus - The world's most powerful optical telescope is now operating on southeastern Arizona's Mount Graham, capturing striking images of objects millions of light years away. See article.
g Aftermath - How might we characterize the political significance of any announcement of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence? How about using the Torino Scale, which characterizes asteroid impacts, as a model to assist the discussion and interpretation of any claimed discovery of ETI? See article.

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