Friday, January 16, 2009

The new science of geobiology and ‘The Rare Earth’

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 - The dust that condensed to form the sun, the Earth and the stuff of human bodies has long been thought to have originated in violent explosions of giant stars. But these explosions - called supernovae - can't account for all the dust in the cosmos. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Abodes - An average galaxy contains a hundred billion stars. We suspect there are perhaps a hundred billion galaxies in the universe. Although this is an educated guess (only 1 billion galaxies are known, for instance), even being off by several factors of ten still means that there is a vast supply of stars out there. Of this immense population, how many stars have planets? How many of these planets have the necessary ingredients and the right conditions for life? See article. Note: This article is from 1999.
g Life - It's new science - so new that its name, “geobiology”, has barely taken hold - and it's brimming with notions that only a few years back would have been laughed off as lurid science fiction. See article.
g Cosmicus - The University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey, which has discovered 70 percent of all known near Earth objects, is about to begin operating a new telescope. The Mount Lemmon telescope will increase survey productivity, helping to identify potentially hazardous objects like asteroids and comets on collision courses with Earth. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of NASA: “The Rare Earth.” How special are the circumstances that have allowed complex life, like animals and plants, to develop on Earth? In this activity, students systematically investigate the time frame for complex life to develop on Earth..See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future


Ryan Shulman said...

The concept of something like rock - something never changing or moving, being alive - this is an almost impossible concept. Although scientists may work with specimens and understand the concept, they might not be able to comprehend it in reality. The article on geobiology is very interesting.

Rob Bignell said...

I think the notion of geobiology isn't that rock is alive (let's forget any discussion ofsilicon-based based lifeforms here) but that life and mineral interact and alter one another's chemistry. Take iron out of the picture, for example, and humans can't exist. Likewise, certain types of rocks (coal and limestone, for example) never will be found on worlds that lack carbon-based life.