Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Atmospheric heating shuts down plate tectonics and brain chips

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 is the habitable zone for the nearby star Wolf 359?
g Abodes - A new study finds that prolonged heating of a planet's atmosphere can shut down plate tectonics. The study could have important implications for our understanding of climates on terrestrial planets like Earth and Venus. See article.
g Life - New research reveals that songbirds add style to their songs using the same mechanism as humans. See article.
g Intelligence - A uniform neural net of brain cells — a brain chip — has been created by a team of scientists lead by Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University in Israel. See article.
g Message - To contact an alien civilization, humanity might want to consider a Bracewell probe — a hypothetical concept for an autonomous interstellar space probe dispatched for the express purpose of communication with (an) alien civilization(s). It was proposed by Ronald N. Bracewell in a 1960 paper, as an alternative to interstellar radio communication between widely separated civilizations. See article.
g Cosmicus - Imagine yourself hip-to-hip, shoulder-to-shoulder, inside a room the size of a walk-in closet for eight hours with five people you just met. Does that make you sweat? Or maybe make your breathing a little more animated? For three weeks, 23 volunteers dedicated time to do just that -- sweat and breathe -- inside a test chamber so NASA scientists at Johnson Space Center in Houston could measure the amount of moisture and carbon dioxide absorbed by a new system being developed for future space vehicles. See article.
g Aftermath - If we do make contact with extraterrestrials, they'll probably be a Type II or III Kardashev civilization. What's a Kardashev civilization? See article.