Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New online map of Mars and an educational guide to astrobiology

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 - High-resolution data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s CRISM instrument has been used to create a new online map of Mars. The map allows visitors to see Mars' progression through wet, volcanic and dry eras. See article.
g Life - When Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, he gave a convincing account of how life has evolved over billions of years from simple microbes to the complexity of the Earth's biosphere today. But he pointedly left out how life got started. One might as well speculate about the origin of matter, he quipped. Today scientists have a good idea of how matter originated in the Big Bang, but the origin of life remains shrouded in mystery. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA Ames was nearly shut down two years ago, but is now poised for major growth, according to a presentation made last month by Director Pete Worden to NASA Ames employees. See article.
g Learning - Here’s the ultimate Web site for an introduction to astrobiology. “Astrobiology: The Living Universe” is a comprehensive and educational guide to life on Earth and beyond. This site features sections on the chemical origin of life, evolution, planetary biology, the search for extraterrestrial life, supporting humans in space and exobiology. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: “Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications, by Steven J. Dick (editor), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. See article.

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