Thursday, April 17, 2008

Youngest forming planet yet seen and danger of radiation during a trip to Mars

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 - By 'listening' to a planet-harboring star, astronomers have been able to determine its origin. The discovery may help us better understand star and planet formation. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers have identified the youngest forming planet yet seen. The discovery is providing a window into the early stages of planet formation and may help in the search for distant, habitable worlds. See article.
g Life - By sticking microbes to the outside of the International Space Station, Japanese researchers aim to test the "panspermia" theory that comets and asteroids can spread life between planets. See article.
g Message - Book alert: In response to Enrico Fermi's famous 1950 question concerning the existence of advanced civilizations elsewhere, physicist Stephen Webb in “If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life” critically examines 50 resolutions to explain the total absence of empirical evidence for probes, starships, and communications from extraterrestrials. He focuses on our Milky Way Galaxy, which to date has yielded no objects or signals that indicate the existence of alien beings with intelligence and technology. His comprehensive analysis covers topics ranging from the Drake equation and Dyson spheres to the panspermia hypothesis and anthropic arguments. Of special interest are the discussions on the DNA molecule, the origin of life on Earth, and the threats to organic evolution on this planet (including mass extinctions). Webb himself concludes that the "great silence" in nature probably results from humankind's being the only civilization now in this galaxy, if not in the entire universe. This richly informative and very engaging book is recommended for most academic and public library science collections. See article.
g Cosmicus - It is well-known that deep-space radiation would be risky for future astronauts on long-lasting missions to targets such as Mars, but new research puts the danger in stark relief. See article.
g Learning - Humans tend to think that everything should have a beginning and an end. Most everything in life offers us at least some feeling of closure; our time on Earth, a story, a year, a day. See article.
g Imagining - Looking for an interesting read? Here’s a nifty anthology of science fiction that for the most part approaches extraterrestrials from a hard science fiction perspective: “Aliens and UFOs: Extraterrestrial Tales from Asimov's Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction and Fact,” by Cynthia Manson and Charles Ardai. It was published in 1993.

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