Thursday, October 30, 2008

Life preserved in Lunar craters and Hubble up and running again

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 -Some lunar craters may be perfect for preserving samples of life from Earth, and possibly even from Mars or other planets. Ancient organic remnants could have been delivered to the Moon as debris that was thrown into space after asteroids impacted rocky worlds in our solar system. See article.
g Life - By the dark of the Halloween new moon, scientists are looking at what's hovering just above the ground. Far from ghost-busting, however, the researchers are using sophisticated technology like Doppler weather radar to study the aerosphere--the air and the organisms that migrate and feed within it. See article.
g Message - Book alert: Exobiology (or cosmic biology), the scientific search for life beyond Earth, "resembles a brainstorming session, with many discordant voices," according to “Here Be Dragons : The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life,” by David Koerner, Simon LeVay, a book mirroring that ferment. Koerner, a planetary scientist, and LeVay, a neuroanatomist, favor the view that technologically advanced civilizations are common in our galaxy and beyond, though many of their colleagues disagree. Their heady tour skips from "extraterrestrial environments" right here on Earth (Antarctica, Death Valley, etc.) where NASA scientists are investigating extreme environments believed to resemble conditions on other planets or moons, through the SETI Institute in California, whose radio telescopes scan the skies for transmitting civilizations, to the Bios Group, a Santa Fe start-up company that uses complexity theory to explore the intrinsic rules underlying the growth of evolving organisms or human institutions. Koerner has used the Hubble Space Telescope to study the birth of planets, and the book presents the latest evidence that planetary systems do indeed swirl around many stars besides our sun. Their open-mindedness within the establishment field of exobiology, an area that is now the "recipient of huge government resources," is manifest as they contemplate multiverse models of coexisting universes or attend a NASA workshop where astronomers, engineers and futurists discuss antimatter propulsion and laser-powered craft. Koerner and LeVay have a gift for helping the uninitiated over technical terrain, aided by clear writing, intuitive examples, color photos and drawings. See reviews.
g Cosmicus -With a visit to the Hubble Space Telescope off until next spring at the earliest, NASA today chose Nov. 14 for its next space shuttle launch, a flight by Endeavour to the international space station. See article.
g Learning -If you’re doing some basic research on evolution for a high school class project or to write a letter to the editor, a great place to start is Berkeley University’s “Evolution Wing” of its “UCMP Exhibit Hall.” These exhibits trace evolutionary thought as it has developed over time, pausing to ponder the contributions of scientists and thinkers including Aristotle, Darwin and Wallace.
g Aftermath - One of our natural tendencies when we make contact with strangers is to try to impress them. Sloppy dressers might polish their shoes for a job interview, hopeful suitors will wash their cars for a first date and prospective children-in-law will be on their best behavior in the presence of the parents of their intended. Wouldn’t we want to do the same in our first contact with ET? Lewis Thomas, in his book “Lives of a Cell,” suggests that if we want to impress an alien civilization, we should send "Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again." See article. Note: This article is from 2003..

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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