Sunday, January 04, 2009

The privatization of SETI and the RNA-DNA link

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 - Astronomers at the University of Rochester are pointing to three nearby stars they say may hold "embryonic planets" — a missing link in planet-formation theories. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Life - Researchers have unlocked new clues about how ancient organic molecules may have first combined to form biologically useful strands of RNA. This single-stranded precursor to DNA is essential for living cells, and some scientists believe the first life on Earth may have been RNA-based rather than DNA-based. See article.
g Message - The privatization of SETI has resulted in global participation in signal detection and analysis activities by a wide range of non-professionals. The SETI community welcomes this grass-roots support, every bit as much as the optical observing community honors the significant scientific contributions of the world's amateur astronomers. However, as SETI observatories spring up on college campuses and in home gardens worldwide, a need emerges for establishing rigorous signal verification protocols and stringent standards of proof. See article. Note: This article from 1999.
g Learning - Book alert: Is there anybody out there? Is ET trying to phone home? In the past decade or so, astrobiology has come of age. Once regarded as a laughing stock - physicists turned Roswell freaks - astrobiologists are increasingly greatly in number. Their subject is one of the few that has actually seen an increase in funding in recent years. Astrobiology blends astronomy, chemistry, and biology to search for amino acids and other building blocks of life. Practitioners seek new planets beyond our solar system, to seek out new life forms, to boldly go... Questions are posed, such as whether all life must be carbon based, whether only Earthlike planets can support life, and whether there "can be life, Jim, but not as we know it." “Astrobiology: A Brief Introduction”, by Kevin W. Plaxco and Michael Gross, is probably the first serious yet accessible book written on the subject. Plaxco is a chemist, Gross a molecular biologist and popular science writer.

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