Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why modern humans beat out the Neanderthals and 10 new extrasolar planets discovered

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 - What would be the habitable zone for the nearby, Sun-like star 82 Eridani?
g Abodes - By watching for planets that transit in front of their host stars, the SuperWASP system has detected 10 new extrasolar planets. SuperWASP data will help astronomers understand how habitable environments might form around distant stars. See article.
g Life - If Martian life existed a few billion years ago, scientists think any plant-like microbes would have left behind a stringy fuzz of fibers. See article.
g Intelligence - Could it be that in the great evolutionary "family tree," it is we modern humans, not the brow-ridged, large-nosed Neanderthals, who are the odd uncle out? See article.
g Message - How scientifically accurate was the ultimate astrobiology film, “Contact”? See article.
g Cosmicus - As an endeavor of tremendous breadth and depth, astrobiology requires interdisciplinary investigation in order to be fully appreciated and examined. As part of a concerted effort to undertake such a challenge, the NASA Astrobiology Institute was established in 1998 as an innovative way to develop the field of astrobiology and provide a scientific framework for flight missions. Now that the NAI has been in existence for almost a decade, the time is ripe to assess its achievements. See article.
g Learning - Why would anyone choose to spend a week in the dusty, desolate desert? That is just what a team of more than 30 NASA scientists, world-renowned planetary experts and teachers are excitedly gearing up for as part of the Spaceward Bound Mojave program. See article.
g Aftermath - Few terms in the space vocabulary are as polarizing as this three-letter acronym: UFO. For some, it represents not just Unidentified Flying Objects, but a virtual universe of extraterrestrial visitations, alien abductions, and—of course—a vast web of government and multinational conspiracies to deny their presence. To others, it’s a symbol of hoaxes and fantasies or, at best, wishful thinking. For those in the latter camp, there might be some trepidation to pick up a book titled Beyond UFOs. Rest assured, though: despite the presence of that three-letter acronym, this book is actually a solid, factually-based look at the science of astrobiology and the prospects for life—intelligent or otherwise—elsewhere in the universe. See article.

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