Thursday, May 15, 2008

Searching for magnetite to find life and the boundary between biology and astronomy

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 - Magnetite, a type of iron oxide, is common on both Earth and Mars, and appears in many forms. On Earth, some of those forms are produced only by bacteria and have unique magnetic signatures. Soon Sam Kim has developed a means of detecting this biologically-produced magnetite that could help in the search for life on Mars. See article.
g Life - New research shows that organisms living inside rocks ejected from planets by asteroid impacts may be able to survive their trip into orbit – and back. See article.
g Message - When does asking the right questions tell more than necessarily knowing the right answers? Perhaps when crossing the fertile boundary between biology and astronomy. See article.
g Cosmicus - Book alert: Paul Hardersen has written a rare and important book about the exploration of space in “The Case for Space: Who Benefits from Explorations of the Last Frontier (Frontiers in Astronomy and Earth Science, Vol. 3)”. While there is plenty of grand vision and high technology here, his book also shows how space technology makes very personal contributions to the quality of life of people around the world. This book shows how individuals can be a part of advancing the space frontier no matter where they are, as Paul invites you to join the great adventure. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a cool set of classroom lessons courtesy of NASA: Astroventure, in which students search for and design a habitable planet. See article.

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