Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Follow the water and how life originated

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 -In the search for life beyond Earth, scientists 'follow the water' to find places that might be hospitable. However, every home gardener knows that plants need more than water, or even sunshine. They also need fertilizer – a mixture of chemical elements that are the building blocks of the molecules of life. Scientists at Arizona State University are studying how the distribution of these elements on Earth – or beyond – shapes the distribution of life, the state of the environment and the course of evolution. See article.
g Life - scientists understand pretty well how life evolves, by mechanisms based on Darwin’s theory of natural selection for survival of the fittest. However, Darwin’s 1859 classic, On the Origin of Species, somewhat ironically doesn’t answer that very question – how species actually originated. And to this day, how that first tiny pool of chemicals twitched to life remains a puzzle. See article.
g Message -Here’s something neat albeit technical: A slide show presentation of "Spectrum Environment of the Allen Telescope Array".
g Cosmicus -A robot that can jump like a grasshopper and roll like a ball could play a key role in future space exploration. The robot can traverse complicated terrain and could be useful in studying planets like Mars. See article.
g Learning -U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were a decade ago, a plateau in performance that leaves educators and policymakers worried about how schools are preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy. See article.
g Imagining - We normally think of life developing on a planet. But could it evolve on a star? Robert L. Forward took this idea to an extreme in “Dragon's Egg”, a novel about life on the surface of a neutron star, composed of very dense "degenerate" matter. Surface gravity is in the millions, and the inhabitants live and think proportionally faster.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

2 comments:

Ryan said...

I looked at your Adobe section. It is interesting; I have never thought about copper in our life's evolution. What if there hadn't been any copper - would another form of gas or another chemical have replaced it? Would any existing lifeforms manufature it? This article was a very interesting item; When I have the time, I will look at more. Thanks.

Rob Bignell said...

More than 1-1/2 years have passed since this report came out, Ryan, and I still have yet to see anything on an adequate replacement for copper. I'd speculate silver or gold, but I doubt they would be adequate to the global task.