Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mars volcano may host alien life and Buzz Aldrin speaks out on NASA's future

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - American astrogeologists believe that there may be pockets of liquid water trapped in sediment layers beneath the slopes of Olympus Mons - the titanic 15-mile-high Martian volcano, three times as high as Mount Everest. Such underground ponds or puddles might be home, they speculate, to strange alien lifeforms. See article.
g Cosmicus - Buzz Aldrin has thrown his weight behind those who believe that the Ares component of NASA's Constellation programme is on a hike to nowhere. See article.
g Learning - When does asking the right questions tell more than necessarily knowing the right answers? Perhaps when crossing the fertile boundary between biology and astronomy. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Life in Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes and stuck rover studies Martian environment

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A new study has found that hydrocarbon lakes on Titan could be good hosts for a certain type of chemistry that could lead to life. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA's Mars rover Spirit is having traction trouble in the Martian soil. Although stuck, the rover is taking advantage of the situation by learning more about Mars' environmental history. See article.
g Learning - The approaching 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is a perfect reason to re-live those moments -- or perhaps experience them for the first time -- at the Space Center's Visitors Complex. And in a public observance this July 16, Aldrin and three of the other 11 Earthlings who have walked on the moon will recall the experience as they stand beneath the largest attraction at the Visitors Complex, a Saturn V rocket left over when the Apollo program ended. See article.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Temperatures of ancient Earth and molecules on our primordial world

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Scientists have developed a way of studying ancient temperatures on Earth - from the body temperature of dinosaurs to the planet's surface temperature during the ice ages. The method could help scientists understand the connections between the biosphere and the early environment of Earth. See article.
g Life - Researchers have created new materials that assemble and disassemble in a way similar to DNA. The materials are constructed from molecules that would be expected to exist on the primordial Earth, and could help answer questions about the origin of life. See article.
g Learning - Astrobiology experts from the University of Glamorgan and Cardiff University have formed a unique research partnership. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Foundation for life and clues from Greenland about ET

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Scientists have developed a new model explaining how simple processes may have laid the foundation for life. Based on simple chemical and physical laws, the model shows how interactions between just a few chemicals can lead to novel combinations of molecules of greater complexity. This emergence of complexity in natural systems is essential in understanding how life as we know it began. See article.
g Life - A bacterium recovered from beneath three kilometers of glacial ice in Greenland may hold clues as to how life could exist on other planets. Astrobiologists are now studying the unique organism, which has been isolated under ice for over 120,000 years. See article.
g Learning - The fact that you’re confronting this column on a Web site devoted to space science and astronomy makes you roughly as rare as technetium. Despite the fact that astronomy is one of the two most popular science subjects in American schools (the other is biology), it’s really not that popular. See article. Note: This column is from 2007.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Next mission to Europa and ‘looking’ for ET in Iceland

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A Wheaton College assistant professor of physics has received a five-year, roughly $200,000 NASA Astrobiology Institute grant that will shape the next mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. See article.
g Life - New research in Antarctica has revealed cells that might repair their DNA at extremely cold temperatures and, in doing so, could effectively be “immortal.” If confirmed, the findings would have implications for the potential for life in the ice of worlds like Mars and Europa. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Cosmicus - In the not-too-distant future, NASA is planning to build lunar research outposts where astronauts will perform important scientific experiments on the Moon. However, such missions may have implications for the mental health of employees working in isolation for extended periods. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Learning - About 40 graduate students and postdocs from the U.S. and Europe will study everything from the formation of water molecules in space to the evolution of earth's first organisms when they travel to inner Iceland to visit glaciers, geysers, hot springs, lava fields and Mars-like areas. There, participants will learn more about Iceland's "extremophiles" - micro-organisms that live in extremely hot, cold, acidic or otherwise inhospitable conditions. See article.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sol’s astrosphere and how nickel helped life evolve

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - In a paper to appear in Astrobiology, David Smith at the University of Arizona in Tucson and John Scalo at the University of Texas, Austin, calculated the squeezing of various stars' protective "astrospheres". They found Earth is exposed to between one and 10 interstellar assaults every billion years. Habitable planets around a red dwarf, which account for three of every four stars, are never exposed. That's because they need to be close to these dim stars to be warm enough to be habitable. See article.
g Abodes - The rise of oxygen on early Earth may have been caused by a microbial changing of the guard between methane-producers and oxygen-producers. This swap may have been initiated by a drop in the ocean's nickel abundance. Continuing studies of the world's largest iron ore deposits could cement the case. See article.
g Life - The capability of detecting biomarkers, such as amino acids, in chemically complex field samples is essential to establishing the knowledge required to search for chemical signatures of life in future planetary explorations. However, due to the complexities of in situ investigations, it is important to establish a new analytical scheme that utilizes a minimal amount of sample preparation. A new research paper reports the feasibility of a novel and sensitive technique, which has been established to quantitate amino acids in terrestrial crust samples directly without derivatization using volatile ion-pairing liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry equipped with an electrospray ionization source.
g Learning - While the space shuttle fleet continues its countdown to retirement, Kennedy Space Center teams are already at work to transition the Florida spaceport into the home of the Ares rocket family that promises to carry astronauts to the moon by the end of the next decade. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thirty million year old ice age and using cellulose microfibers to find extraterrestrial life

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - New research shows that a 'brief' ice age in Earth's past actually lasted for 30 million years. During the ice age, global warming was curbed by the natural burial of organic carbon underground. The study is helping scientists understand the historical connections between the biosphere and the environment of Earth. See article.
g Life - A new study shows that abundant cellulose microfibers are present in t250 million year old halite and appear remarkably intact. This discovery points to cellulose as an ideal macromolecular target in the search for life on other planets in our Solar System. See article.
g Cosmicus - As the 21st century gets underway, the impact of space activities upon the welfare of humanity only will increase. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat Web site courtesy of NASA: “Future Flight Design”. Written for grades 3-7, kids can design air transportation and aircraft systems.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Elements that might enable life on another world and analyze a signal from space just like a SETI astronomer

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Angelle Tanner, a post-doctoral scholar at JPL and Caltech, studies planets in distant solar systems, called extrasolar planets. The golden prize in this field is to find a planet similar to Earth - the only planet we know that harbors life. While more than 350 extrasolar planets have been detected, most are gas planets, with no solid surface. Many are located in orbits closer to their parent star than Mercury is to the sun. In other words, not very similar to Earth. Here's Tanner's short list of what she and her colleagues would love to find in another planet - the elements that might enable life on another world. See article.
g Cosmicus - There are many practical benefits to space exploration. Advances in space technology have a dramatic effect on Earth technology. Benefits range from new ergonomic solutions for people who do repetitive work to industrial medical X-ray machines. Listed below are several of these benefits. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Learning - Here’s a neat interactive Web game where you analyze a signal from space, just as would a SETI astronomer.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

How life may save the Earth and budgeting NASA’s Astrobiology Program

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - In one billion years, increasing radiation from the sun may make Earth uninhabitable. However, a new study shows that the life might help regulate temperatures by causing atmospheric changes. In fact, having a biosphere could increase the length of time that planets remain habitable. See article.
g Life - Studying extremophiles on Earth may provide helpful metrics in our search for life elsewhere in the universe. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Cosmicus - NASA’s Astrobiology Program is in good health for program year 2009, with a budget of $49.5 million dollars and a full slate of ongoing and new initiatives promising a continuing stream of discoveries. See article.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ancient shorelines on Mars and why ‘biology’ is astrobiology

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has discovered the first definitive evidence of shorelines on Mars, an indication of a deep, ancient lake there and a finding with implications for the discovery of past life on the Red Planet. See article.
g Life - A central question of astrobiology concerns the origin and distribution of life in the universe. For this reason, astrobiology can be considered to fall within the science called transitional biology. If we accept that life originated by a process of prebiotic chemical evolution, the next question concerns the nature of the transitional pathway from inanimate chemical systems to the first forms of life on Earth. These possible transitional states are the subject matter of transitional biology as a discipline. See article.
g Cosmicus - We need to broaden our approach in the new Vision for Space Exploration to include the development of the Moon and its resources. In the end, commerce is not NASA’s job. However, NASA and the government as a whole must take into account the development imperative and its importance to humanity’s collective future. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity, courtesy of NASA: “The Drake Equation.” Students estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy by first estimating the number of craters on the Moon and then by performing estimates of multiple-variable systems culminating in the use of the Drake Equation. See lesson.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stellar shrapnel and back to the moon after a decade

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - If a star located light-years away explodes, it could take out life on Earth. A group of researchers previously proposed that this might explain a mass extinction event millions of years ago. A follow-up project is now trying to beef up the case. See article.
g Abodes - An international team of astronomers have announced the discovery of a new extrasolar planet in the constellation of Hercules. It is the largest known exoplanet and is about 70 percent bigger than Jupiter. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Cosmicus - For the first time in 10 years, America is shooting for the moon. NASA sent two unmanned probes into space Thursday afternoon on the back of an Atlas V rocket built in Colorado. See article.
NASA scientists are studying ways to improve space medicine to tackle space travel's medical challenges. One effort is to develop 'image fusion.' In this process, clear, sharp x-rays and other high-resolution, scanned images of astronauts taken on Earth will be combined with less sharp sonograms taken onboard spacecraft to enhance those images. These improved images will enable doctors to better see the condition of major organs in astronauts. See article. Note: This article is from early 2007.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Exploding stars and planet-forming region discovered

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - When stars go pop, a murderous torrent of energy is released. Life on Earth may have been partly extinguished by just such a violent outburst, but there's little hard evidence yet to justify such a claim. A new study plans to fill in the forensic details. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers at the University of Rochester have discovered five Earth-oceans' worth of water that has recently fallen into the planet-forming region around an extremely young, developing star. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Life - You know the cliche, wherever we find water here on Earth, we find life. But what if the environment is really hostile - so hostile that any living creature would almost never see water? And even when there was water, they were constantly being blasted with radiation. Amazingly, there's a microbe out there,
g Cosmicus - We don't yet know what satellite solar power stations will look like 50 years from now. But we do know how big they'll be: they'll be hundreds of square kilometers in area - otherwise they won't generate enough power to have a significant impact on humans' growing energy needs. See article.
g Learning - Here’s something fun for the kids: An “Alien Life” word find. It’s based on a Science for Kids article.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Changing criteria for habitable planets and life forming 12 billion years ago

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Astronomers searching for Earthlike planets often focus on the 'habitable zone' around stars – where the heat from the star is at the perfect level for liquid water to exist. New calculations indicate that planets close to their parent stars could experience tidal forces that limit the habitable zone and change the criteria habitable planets. See article.
g Life - are using models of star formation and destruction to determine when in the roughly 13.7 billion-year history of the universe the biogenic elements – those essential to life as we know it – might have been pervasive enough to allow life to form. See article.
g Cosmicus - After a gaseous hydrogen leak today forced NASA to scrub the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour for the second time, the space agency said it is now looking to try again in July. See article.
g Imagining - Ever wondered how all those traditional space-opera and epic-fantasy races - the pig-faced warriors, the smug bumheads, and all the rest - came up with their wonderfully clich├ęd alien vocabularies? It's not difficult; once you've mastered these basic rules, you'll be able to produce names and phrases just as stereotypical as theirs. See article.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Earth’s fingerprint and newborn stars at galaxy core

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astronomers have at last uncovered newborn stars at the frenzied center of our Milky Way galaxy. The discovery was made using the infrared vision of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers have captured a snapshot of Earth's chemical fingerprint by viewing light reflected back to Earth from the moon during a lunar eclipse. The information could be used to help identify habitable planets beyond our solar system. See article.
g Life - Deinococcus geothermalis, that can handle some of the harshest environments on the planet - favored habitats include nuclear power plants. Scientists once suspected that microbes like this might have evolved on Mars. Nope, they're homegrown. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Cosmicus - In the future, bedtime for astronauts may be more than a few evening hours of regular shuteye. It may help them reach other planets, though admittedly they would have to sleep for quite a long time. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity courtesy of DiscoverSchool.com: “Extraterrestrials.” In the activity, a digital radio message, intended to alert any intelligent life in space to the existence of intelligent life on Earth, has been electronically transmitted into space by the Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico. Students must ensure the message is effective by showing that the senders (humans from Earth) are capable of advanced thinking — but it must not depend on the ability of extraterrestrials to understand any Earth language. See article.
g Imagining - For several years a "game" called COTI has been played, in which the participants design an integrated world, alien life form and culture and simulate contact with a future human society. Here are the results of one of those simulations, in which humanity encounters the Alchemists, sea creatures of a new taxon combining many characteristics found in Earth’s cetaceans, crustaceans and mollusks. See article.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tidal debris of colliding galaxies and the latest science books

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astronomers have discovered new tidal debris stripped away from colliding galaxies. New debris images are of special interest since they show the full history of galaxy collisions and resultant starburst activities, which are important in 'growing' galaxies in the early universe. See article.
g Learning - Quantum physics is, perhaps, not the first thing that springs to mind when browsing bookshelves for light summer reading. But in recent years, a new breed of science writers has produced tomes lightweight enough to pop into a beach bag that address such weighty topics as the fate of human civilizations (Jared Diamond's “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, 2005); famous equations (Simon Singh's “Fermat's Enigma”, published in 1998, and David Bodanis's “E=mc2”, 2001); and the brain explained (“The Mind's Path” by Michael Gazzaniga, 2000). See article.
g Imagining - Ben Bova, the prolific author of science fiction novels such as "Mars" and "Jupiter," studies the science and politics of astrobiology in his book, "Faint Echoes, Distant Stars." In this exclusive interview with Astrobiology Magazine, Bova shares his thoughts about astrobiology, space travel, and the discoveries of the future. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Deep-sea ecosystems and ‘The Science of Aliens’

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A team of researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute conducted the first field test earlier this year of a new configuration of Deep-ESP. The device is designed to perform long-term studies of how deep-sea ecosystems respond to environmental changes. See article.
g Cosmicus - When astronauts finally find out if there really are little green men on Mars they might just be traveling across the planet in a Canadian rover. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Learning - A fossil controversy lollapalooza heads for the Big Apple later this month, exhibitors announced Monday. On display, Ida, the 47-million-year-old fossil primate made famous last month by publicity campaign, joins Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old fossil early human found four decades ago, according the the Houston Museum of Natural Science. See article.
g Imagining - Think of your favorite alien on TV or in the movies. Do you have the image in mind? I'd bet that your alien is pretty darn smart. However, despite what we see in “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” the author of “The Science of Aliens” doesn't expect intelligence to be an inevitable result of evolution on other worlds. See article.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Planetary disk found around twin stars and ‘Space Exploration for Dummies’

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astronomers have discovered a rotating disk around a young binary star system. The finding was made with a sequence of images that provide a vivid snapshot of the process behind planet formation. See article.
g Cosmicus - Regenerative life support systems that could one day be used by human explorers on the moon or Mars are now being tested in Spain. ESA's MELisSSA system is an artificial ecosystem that is able to regenerate food, water and oxygen from waste, carbon dioxide and minerals. See article.
g Learning - "Space Exploration for Dummies" is the latest addition to the yellow-covered "Dummies" series. Researched and penned by Dr. Cynthia Phillips, planetary geologist at the SETI Institute, and her partner, Shana Priwer, professional writer, this book captures the essential facts and accomplishments of the real space cadets. See article.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mathematics the key to astrobiology and China targets Mars

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - By studying theories about why the universe is the way it is, mathematicians are hoping to uncover what these theories mean for the origin and future of life. Mathematics could be the key to answering some of life's biggest questions, and could help astrobiologists understand life's place in the universe. See article.
g Life - How did house cats evolve? Can dogs talk? Why do cats purr? Find out in this report on the science of our best friends. See article.
g Cosmicus - The rapidly ascending Chinese space program is setting its sights on a new target: Mars. See article.
g Learning - Twenty-three eighth graders from a Maine junior high school will have front row seats for the launch of the shuttle Endeavour. See article.
g Imagining - Book alert: Get thee to a used bookstore if you haven’t read “Life Signs: The Biology of Star Trek,” by Susan and Robert Jenkins. The Jenkinses focus on the biological logic (or illogic) behind the alien ecologies in Star Trek — the original TV series and all of its sequels and movie spinoffs. The best parts are the biological bloopers, even though only a fan will truly appreciate them. For instance, how did the Klingons evolve forehead ridges between the original and the new series ... and why do all the planets look like California? The science in the book helps the authors hypothesize about how humanoid life might have evolved throughout the universe (panspermia revisited). They offer simple evolutionary theories to explain the various head shapes and behaviors of fictional alien species. See article.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Water flowed on Mars 1.25 million years ago and alien hitch-hikers

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Water may have been flowing over the surface of Mars as recently as 1.25 million years ago, according to a new study that examined gullies and fan-shaped deposits on the Martian landscape and determined that they were formed by melting ice. See article.
g Life - Beginning this week, scientists and nonscientists now have easy access to information about when living species and their ancestors originated, information that previously was difficult to find or inaccessible. See article.
g Intelligence - The feeling of being disliked, ostracized or rejected was specially designed by evolution to be particularly painful, a researcher says. Subjectively speaking, being evaluated negatively by others can feel even worse than physical trauma. See article.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: “Almost certainly there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first apeman, his own private, world-sized heaven, or hell. How many of those potential heavens and hells are now inhabited and, by what manner of creatures, we have no way of guessing; the very nearest is a million times further away than Mars or Venus, those still remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling; one day we shall meet our equals, or our masters, among the stars” – Arthur C. Clarke
g Imagining - Bad news for the NASA administrator - the space shuttle has blown up again. But this time the cause is not foam-fretted tiles, it's alien hitch-hikers. That's right: aggressive extraterrestrials have bummed a rocket ride to Earth to take over our planet. It's a familiar theme, indeed, but there's a silver lining to this interstellar cloud: the invaders are doing it for your own good. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Extrasolar planets and new doubts on dinosaur-bird link

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Book alert: “Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology”, by Caleb A. Scharf, offers an advanced introduction to the increasingly robust fields of extrasolar planets and astrobiology. No other text currently available applies this level of mathematics and physics, while also providing an extensive grounding in key issues of chemistry, biology, and geophysics.
g Life - New research is casting doubts about the connections between dinosaurs and birds. The results indicate that although birds and dinosaurs may have shared a common ancestor, birds did not directly descend from dinosaurs. The study sheds new light on the processes behind the evolution of life on Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - The Federation of Astrobiology Organizations encompasses an ever widening set of individual astrobiology networks, associations, institutes, research groups, and societies; linking them together to assist the implementation of cooperative international activities. See article.
g Imagining - Is there life on Mars? Here’s a timeline of the debate. Note: This article is from 2004.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How to get oxygen in your atmosphere and invading aliens

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A switch from predominantly undersea volcanoes to a mix of undersea and terrestrial ones shifted the Earth's atmosphere from devoid of oxygen to one with free oxygen, according to geologists. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Life - Extraterrestrial life is life originating outside of the Earth. It is the subject of astrobiology and its existence remains hypothetical, because there is no credible evidence of extraterrestrial life which has been generally accepted by the mainstream scientific community. See article.
g Intelligence - A research team has discovered a part of the brain crucial for counting and performing arithmetic. The new finding could lead to a better understanding of dyscalculia, a psychological disorder that makes it nearly impossible to deal with numbers, much less complicated math. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: "...in our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think, how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world." — President Ronald Reagan, United Nations General Assembly, (Sept. 21, 1987)
g Learning - Here’s a neat new set of afterschool activities for elementary school students: “Astrobiology.” This new resource guide from the American Museum of Natural History brings astrobiology activities to the afterschool arena. As part of an 18-month project, AMNH collected NASA materials originally developed for the formal education setting, and adapted them for use in afterschool programs for participants aged 5-12. Members of NAI's NASA Ames Research Center Lead Team served as science advisors to the guide.
g Imagining - What about the invading aliens from the X-Files: Are they plausible? A book released a few years ago that addresses the topic is “The Science of the X-Files” by Jeanne Cavelos.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Second genesis on Earth and new cleaning protocol for ‘Search for Life’ missions

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A shower of millions of rocks from space that collided with Mars, the Earth, and the moon about four billion years ago could have warmed our planet and made it wetter, say researchers. That’s what scientists found when they heated ancient rocks like those that hit the Earth billions of years ago and measured the carbon dioxide and water that was released, according to a study published in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. See article.
g Life - A great deal of money and effort have gone into searching for life on other worlds. But what a second genesis of life, a type of life unrelated to DNA-based life, is here on Earth? Paul Davies urges the scientific community to take a look. See article.
g Cosmicus - Scientists have developed a new cleaning protocol for space hardware, such as the scoops of Mars rovers, which could be used on future "Search for Life" missions on other planets. See article.
g Imagining - Looking for some classic science fiction alien movies? There’s a fairly exhaustive list, with brief explanations of each, here. Now in how each one the aliens really are just mythical monsters that play on human psychology (specifically fear or revulsion). Such films really say less about the evolution of potential extraterrestrial lifeforms and civilizations than about the evolution of human beings and our culture. In fact, here’s an essay that examines a specific detail of that notion: “An Exploration of the Relationship Between Science Fiction Film and the UFO Mythology".

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Titan’s Earth-like clouds and pioneering Mars

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - Clouds on Saturn's moon Titan form and move much like those on Earth, only much slower. Contrary to what was expected, scientists have found that Titan's clouds don't move with the seasons. Studying Titan's weather is allowing astrobiologists to draw some unique comparisons between the tiny moon and our home planet. See article.
g Cosmicus - Space fans are excited by the prospect of manned missions to Mars some time in the next 50 years. But would these first explorers be prepared to make it a one-way trip? The Red Planet is an undoubtedly inhospitable environment. But it is also the world that is most like our own in the solar system. A leading scientist famed for thinking outside the box has put forward the idea that pioneering visitors to Mars could stay there, survive and even be "reasonably cosy". See article.
g Imagining - Why weren’t there classes like this when I was in school? In 2003, Prof. Joan Slonczewski taught “Biology 103: Biology in Science Fiction” at Kenyon College. Here’s her reading list. It’s all great reading, whether you’re in the class or not. Of course, if Slonczewski taught in Dover, Pa., her class would first have to be read the statement, “The theory that human authors wrote this book is not a fact and continues to be tested. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of these books that differs from publishers’ views."

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Synthetic biology and space headaches

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - For many people, the word "alien" means ET, Chewbacca or some green-headed space monster. But for a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, alien life is very different from the Hollywood version. These scientists are bringing the search for life in outer space back home to Earth. By looking at the Earth's oldest rocks and fossils they hope to help future NASA missions to Mars and beyond look for evidence of microbial life. See article.
g Life - Synthetic biology is a new field, but it's targeting an old question: How did life begin? See article.
g Cosmicus - Researchers are calling for the 'space headaches' that many astronauts experience to be defined as a new secondary disorder. Contrary to what scientists once believed, space headaches are not caused by space motion sickness. The results of the study may aid in the development of countermeasures to help keep astronauts safe and healthy while on long-duration missions. See article.
g Aftermath - I offer the following Web site entry on “exopolitics” from 2004 only as a basis for us to think about how people might react once we know an extraterrestrial civilization exists.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

How water came to Earth and high school students study astrobiology

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A new study shows that frequent meteorite impacts during an early period of the solar system known as the 'Late Heavy Bombardment' may have furnished the Earth and other planets like Mars with liquid water. By providing a source of water for the Earth's oceans, these impacts could have helped to make the early earth habitable. See article.
g Life - Quote of the Day: "There is grandeur in this view of life, ..., from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." - Charles Darwin, closing sentence in On the Origin of Species (1859)
g Cosmicus - A British space expert believes astronauts should be sent to live on Mars for good - and asked to take part in a Big Brother-style TV show. See article.
g Learning - For 14 years, NASA has been working with Lassen Volcanic National Park administration and northern California students to study how the park's mix of snow, volcanoes and flowing water have affected the park's geology and microbiotic life. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s an interesting Web site: FAQ about Star Trek aliens. Though light on evolutionary origin, it’s questions (and answers) often point toward the need for writers to consider that issue.
g Aftermath - As SETI's scientists plan for their first contact with other worlds, who better to consult with than anthropologists, who specialize in encounters with exotic cultures? And thus, over the past several years the SETI Institute has repeatedly brought together anthropologists and scholars from other disciplines, in an attempt to bridge the gap between humans and extraterrestrials. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Hitchhiking microbes and turning fiction into reality

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - Microbes that hitch a ride on a spacecraft might make it all the way to Mars, but a recent study finds they probably won’t survive for very long there. See article.
g Learning - Americans love science in their movies and TV shows, yet recent reports indicate we are losing our scientific dominance to the rest of the world. Can science-themed entertainment get Americans off the couch and into the lab? See article. Note: This story is from 2004.
g Aftermath - It was not suggested outside of science fiction — and there only after the 1890s — that extraterrestrials might come to Earth, except for a few believers in interplanetary spirit travel by mortals (an idea now well established among occultists). Among these was the well-known Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, who, in what was perhaps the earliest conception of ETs as “gods from outer space,” reasoned that since no beings from other worlds have used their advanced science to abolish suffering on Earth, “Is there not reason to fear that we are forever alone in the universe, and that no other world has ever been more intelligent or better than our own?” But this, the first serious “Where are they?” argument, was not known to the general public and in any case would not have carried weight, since it depended on the concept of disembodied spirits. Physical contact between worlds was not thought possible outside of fiction. See article.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Subglacial life and finding a place on Mars

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Life - Eric Boyd's prestigious NASA Astrobiology Institute Fellowship will allow him to explore the possibility that living organisms exist in subglacial ecosystems at very cold temperatures. The existence of these organisms in an environment that may be similar to conditions on Mars might mean that life could also exist on the Red Planet. See article.
g Cosmicus - Researchers are adding to the features available on the popular online application, Google Earth. Now users can participate in actual Mars missions by using Google Earth to recommend places of interest to photograph with the THEMIS camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. See article.
g Aftermath - Here’s an intriguing article that is frequently referenced in astrobiology papers: “The Consequences of a Discovery: Different Scenarios", by astronomer Ivan Almar. Note: This article dates from 1995.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Astrometry turns up an exoworld and new science video program begins with astrobiology

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astrometry is a method of detecting planets by precisely measuring the motion of a star as planets tug it back and forth ever so slightly. The technique was first attempted 50 years ago, but has failed to turn up any extrasolar planets until now. See article.
g Learning - Richard Hoover, winner of the 2009 SPIE Gold Medal of the Society, leads off a new series of National Science Foundation video programs called Science Nation. The feature on Hoover's team's work, released 1 June, focuses on what can be learned from "extremophiles": organisms that can live and thrive in frozen deserts or steaming-hot volcanic vents. Hoover is Astrobiology Group Leader at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Hunstville, Ala. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: "Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications," by Steven J. Dick (ed.), is a provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. Paul C.W. Davies argues that if the universe turns out to be biofriendly (i.e., if given enough time and the right conditions, life will emerge as a matter of course), scientifically savvy thinkers may be compelled to reject atheism and embrace intelligent design theory. The contributors are especially interested in extraterrestrial life: philosopher Ernan McMullin, for example, argues that extraterrestrial intelligence will force Christians to do some hard thinking about original sin, the human soul, and the Incarnation. See reviews.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Earth life not seeded study suggests and new space missions looking for life beyond our world

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - Astronomers took a peek at the first X-ray image of an entire galaxy cluster, courtesy of a Japan-U.S. space observatory. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists have uncovered a previously unknown giant volcanic eruption that caused mass extinctions around the globe 260 million years ago. The eruption increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and warmed the entire planet, resulting in global environmental change. See article.
g Life - Life on Earth is unlikely to have come from space, says a new study on viruses. If life is ever found on another planet, however, the findings could help us judge whether it arrived from space or not. See article.
g Cosmicus - The Space Telescope Science Institute recently held "The Search for Life in the Universe" symposium. Researchers in disciplines ranging from astronomy to astrobiology spoke about studies and space missions directed toward the search for life beyond Earth. See article.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Tiny stars harbor planets and trying to find the first small exoworld

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Stars - A Jupiter-like planet has been discovered orbiting one of the smallest stars known, suggesting that planets could be more common than previously thought. See article.
g Abodes - Planets are like insurance premiums: smaller is usually better. But better worlds are in short supply. See article.
g Life - At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, scientists are trying to create artificial life. In this interview, Hans Ziock discusses the progress made so far, and the steps that still need to be taken for life to arise in the lab. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: “Human beings are explorers by nature. The descendants of curious apes, there is something in us that thrills at new vistas, new ideas.” – Ben Bova

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