Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When we’ll know where there are planets that support life and science under attack again in Texas

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 - Frenzied star-making in the Milky Way Galaxy starting about 2400 million years ago had extraordinary effects on life on Earth. Harvests of bacteria in the sea soared and crashed in a succession of booms and busts, with an instability not seen before or since. According to new results published by Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center in the journal Astronomische Nachrichten, the variability in the productivity of life is closely linked to the cosmic rays, the atomic bullets that rain down on the Earth from exploded stars. They were most intense during a baby boom of stars, many of which blew up. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Abodes - Sorry, folks: you probably won’t be picking up an extraterrestrial pen pal before you die. But way before that, we’ll know where the planets are that could support life, says Saint Mary’s University astronomy and physics professor Rob Thacker. See article.
g Life - A pair of Scripps Research Institute scientists has taken a significant step toward answering that question. The scientists have synthesized for the first time RNA enzymes that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components, and the process proceeds indefinitely. See article.
g Learning - It isn't just evolution under attack in Texas. A member of the committee writing the standards for a new Earth and Space Sciences course in Texas public schools, notes that the creationist members of the Texas BOE have also placed young earth creationists on that committee. See article.
g Imagining - Some distant planets could support alien life. But what might this life be like? The only example that scientists have is life on Earth, which needs carbon-based chemicals and water. There may be alien life forms based on different chemicals - some of these could be so strange that we would not recognise them. But astronomers are looking for Earth-like planets, so scientists have imagined aliens based on water and carbon. See article.

Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future

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