Sunday, May 02, 2010

Astrobiology playing major role in next decade of planetary science and understanding alien minds

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 beautiful salty pool in Antarctica's Dry Valleys is teaching scientists about the potential for life in brine pools on ancient Mars. The study also reveals a previously unreported mechanism for producing an important greenhouse gas - nitrous oxide - in Antarctic habitats. See article.
g Life – The first-ever discovery of ice and organic molecules on an asteroid may hold clues to the origins of Earth's oceans and life 4 billion years ago. Researchers detected a thin layer of water ice and organic molecules on the surface of a large asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. See article.
g Intelligence – New research suggests that humans rely on several regions of the brain, each designed to accomplish different primitive tasks, in order to make sense of a sentence. See article.
g Cosmicus – The search for life or evidence of past life in the Solar System is a major factor in the suite of missions being discussed for the upcoming decadal survey in planetary science, according to Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover missions. See article.
g Learning – Sometimes, the apparent distance between two celestial objects – the distance we can actually see on the sky – is indicated in terms of angular degrees. But these descriptions can seem like a foreign language to folks who don't pore over star charts every day, so here's a handy primer. See article.
g Imagining – Book alert: Of course, quality science fiction is really less about aliens than the human condition. That’s why you ought to scour some used bookstores for this rare edition: “Star Trek on the Brain: Alien Minds, Human Minds”, by Robert Sekuler and Randolph Blake. An educational and entertaining nonfiction work that uses "Star Trek" to explain the workings of the human mind, the authors (both psychology professors) have put together an excellent and highly readable neurology primer. Their two-pronged task is to give a "Star Trek" example and then link it to contemporary science of the nervous system. Do you want to better understand emotions, their cultural implications and universal expressions? Then this is the book.

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