Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bacterial biofilms and new astrobiology center in New York

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 Life - The activity of bacteria has often been viewed as detrimental to fossils. Now, researchers have found that bacterial biofilms may help preserve fossils of embryos and soft tissues. Such fossils are incredibly valuable in studying the evolution of life. See article.
g Message -Here’s a Web page that summarizes some of the current answers to Fermi’s Paradox.
g Cosmicus - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has received a $7.5 million grant from NASA to be used for opening of the New York Center for Astrobiology. See article.
g Learning -One great way to get kids interested in astronomy is to have them see falling stars. How would you know when to do that? The American Meteor Society, Ltd., a non-profit scientific organization established to encourage and support the research activities of both amateur and professional astronomers who are interested in the fascinating field of meteor astronomy, offers a great web site with all of the information you need. The society’s affiliates observe, monitor, collect data on, study, and report on meteors, meteor showers, meteoric fireballs and related meteoric phenomena. See article.
g Imagining -Book alert: Stephen Baxter's "Manifold Time" and (especially) "Manifold Space" are extensive explorations of two variants of the Fermi paradox. The first uses the "rarity of life" explanation, the second assumes ubiquitous life but emphasizes how vicious the universe appears to be. The second book presupposes that intelligent life cannot get substantially "smarter" than we are now (ie. no super-intelligences); this is a necessary assumption for his story telling (and an increasingly common device in science fiction). See reviews.
g Aftermath - Scientists should pay greater attention to discussing the social implications of discovering extraterrestrial life - even though many researchers shy away from the subject because they don't consider it "hard" science. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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