Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bacterial diversity drivers and which star meets the current best guesses for habitability

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 -For almost 30 years, scientists have known that complex carbon compounds called tholins exist on comets and in the atmospheres of the outer planets. Theoretically, tholins might interact with water in a process called hydrolysis to produce complex molecules similar to those found on the early Earth. See article.
g Life - New studies show that temperature, not productivity, drives bacterial diversity. The finding is changing our understanding about the conditions that affect how organisms inhabit specific environments. See article.
g Message -What star meets the current best guesses for habitability? This fascinating question was answered as part of a research survey in preparation for NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder mission. The answer, according to the largest such classification so far attempted, is the 37th brightest star in the constellation, Gemini, called 37 Gem. This star, as it turns out, is the most like our own sun. See article. Note: This article came out in October 2003.
g Cosmicus -The Phoenix Mars Lander — which confirmed the existence of ice water on Mars back in June — has two Canadian-made instruments on board for its three-month (but likely to run for years) mission. See article.
g Learning -A new video game called "Spore," the result of a four year collaboration between video game designer Will Wright and a group of scientists, is teaching players evolutionary biology. See article.
g Aftermath - Humans live and die by approximations. We are seldom as perfect or as accurate as we would like to be. And as we contemplate what we might say to an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, maybe that's a point we should emphasize. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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