Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hadean era re-envisioned and why we’ll discover alien plants before alien animals

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 Stars - A vast reservoir of comets that is too far away to see might be detectable in maps of radiation left over from the big bang, a new study suggests. Comets that take longer than 200 years to orbit the Sun come from all directions in the sky. That has long led scientists to believe that they were nudged out of a bubble-like halo of icy objects that surrounds the solar system – the Oort Cloud. See article.
g Abodes - Tiny crystals found in an Australian rock formation may be the key to understanding what earth looked like in its very earliest days, researchers say; a new study of 4-billion-year-old crystals seems to indicate that our planet already had plate tectonics, and may have looked much like it does today. See article.
g Life -The first signs of life beyond our solar system might come from the gentle breathing out of plants on an alien world. See article.
g Message -Since the beginning of astronomical observation, science has been viewing light on a curve. In a galaxy filled with thousands of eclipsing binary stars, we've refined our skills by measuring the brightness or intensity of so-called variable star as a function of time. The result is known as a "light curve." Through this type of study, we've discovered size, distance and orbital speed of stellar bodies and refined our ability to detect planetary bodies orbiting distant suns. Here on Earth, most of the time it's impossible for us to resolve such small objects even with the most powerful of telescopes, because their size is less than one pixel in the detector. But new research should let us determine the shape of an object... like a ringed planet, or an orbiting alien space station. See article.
g Aftermath - How is the search for life elsewhere reflected culturally in symbols that we recognize daily? One signpost invented to characterize the 'state of the internet' is the occasional change in the logo of the world's most popular search engine. How that doodle has come to recognize astrobiology seems to violate conventional wisdom on what is meant by tinkering with one's cherished brand recognition. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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