Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iron snow and relationship between humans and robots

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 - With the help of NASA’s Swift gamma-ray burst satellite, a scientist has observed a sudden burst of X-rays while studying the remnants of a supernova in a nearby galaxy. It is for the first time that astronomers manage to record a supernova, and not just the afterglow. See article.
g Abodes - Scientific evidence suggests that iron 'snow' may form deep inside of Mercury. The movement of this iron snow could be responsible for Mercury's magnetic field. The finding has implications in our understanding of the nature and evolution of planets. See article.
g Life - They may be tiny, but Argentine ants can kick some ant butt. This invasive species has nearly wiped out native ants in California. Now scientists have discovered a way to turn one of the ants' strongest weapons into a weakness. By altering the identifying chemicals coating the ants' bodies, researchers turned typical cooperative behavior into an ant-family feud. See article.
g Cosmicus - Washington Post Staff Writer Marc Kaufman was online Monday to discuss his Monday Science Page article about NASA's Phoenix spacecraft, which is scheduled to land next Sunday on Mars. See transcript.
g Learning - Exploration of space now and in the future depends on both human and robotic skills. However, according to a leading scientist, there is need to fortify and rebalance the funding between the two. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Imagining - Here's an interesting Web site: FAQ about Star Trek aliens. Though light on evolutionary origin, its questions (and answers) often point toward the need for writers to consider that issue.