Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mars’ flowing water and Star Trek’s Gorn

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 -New research indicates that flowing water on Mars may have been present far longer than previously believed. The finding provides new information about the potential for past life on Mars. See article.
g Message -Here’s a good overview of the Drake Equation — though the rest of the Web site itself is a bit suspect.
g Cosmicus -The huge particle-smashing machine built to simulate the conditions of the "Big Bang" that recreated the universe has malfunctioned and may be shut down for at least two months, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said on Saturday. See article.
g Learning -What is astrobiology? Here’s a neat primer on the subject.
g Imagining -Among the more famous alien races from “Star Trek” are the Gorn, bipedal reptilians who are much larger and stronger than humans. The Gorn are an unlikely alien species but a splendid example of how we so often portray extraterrestrials based not on scientific principles but our own psychology — like the insect alien, most humans naturally find the reptilian alien repulsive. For science fiction, it’s a good choice to create suspense: creatures out of our nightmares that we keep going back to out of a fascination over what frightens us. But could the Gorn evolve on another world? Probably not. The most troubling feature of the Gorn is the remarkable parallel evolution that would have to occur on Gorn Prime to Earth for a few billion years, at least up to our Age of Dinosaurs. Also disconcerting is the Gorn’s snout; this adds weight to the head and with a large brain size creates excessive and unbalanced weight for the neck muscles to hold up. Another problem is the Gorn’s slow movements; certainly a species that evolved to intelligence would have to move a little faster, or it could not succeed in hunting. A caveat here is that its lack of agility may in part have propelled it to intelligence, as it needed to outthink faster moving prey. Some “Star Trek” fans have speculated that Gorn Prime possesses a harsh environment and a relatively high local gravity (1.4 Gs!), which accounts for the Gorn’s increased strength and endurance levels. This seems unlikely, though, as the Gorn then would be able to move swiftly on the asteroid presented in the episode, which Kirk shifts about on as if it were Earth normal gravity.
g Aftermath - An Outside Context Problem or an OCP is any problem outside given organization or society experience, with an immediate, ubiquitous and lasting impact upon an entire culture or civilization — such as first contact with extraterrestrials. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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