Monday, May 31, 2010

Pale blue dot shot again from space and battery for primitive organisms

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 - Two Japanese spacecraft, one headed to Venus and another limping home from an asteroid, have beamed home snapshots of Earth that reveal our planet in different hues amid a sea of stars. See article.
g Life - Researchers have discovered that a compound known as pyrophosphite may have been an important energy source for primitive organisms on the early Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA engineers have fully revived the far-flung Voyager 2 probe on the edge of the solar system after fixing a computer glitch that scrambled its messages home for nearly three weeks. See article.
g Learning - Aimed mostly at younger children, KidsAstronomy.com teaches budding young stargazers how to identify the different constellations, phases of the moon, planets, deep space, and more – including handy printouts to help them when the computers shut down!
g Imagining - Interest in extraterrestrial life has tended to focus on a search for extrasolar planets similar to the Earth. But what of forms of intelligent life that are very different from those found on Earth? Some features of life will not be peculiar to our planet, and alien life will resemble ours in such universals. But if intelligent, non-humanoid aliens exist, where might they be? Would they wish to visit Earth and would we know if they did? See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?”: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Walking on an ‘alien’ Earth and ‘Exploring the Planets’

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 - Walking with the dinosaurs seems like a step into deep time – but the fossil mounds of the Pilbara region of Western Australia known as stromatolites are actually 58 times older. They may be the best evidence we have of our earliest ancestors. Our planet was something of an alien world 3.43 billion years ago when they formed, compared to today’s relatively balmy, oxygenated conditions. So they are not only important in understanding our own origins but also in the search for past and present life on other worlds such as Mars. See article.
g Message - Just how does SETI work? Here’s a good primer.
g Learning - The Smithsonian Institute itself provides an amazing tool for learning more about the Solar System without delving too deeply into the physics and mathematics behind astronomy at Exploring the Planets.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Solar system with out-of-whack planetary orbits and Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence

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 have discovered a planetary system where two of the planets orbit at a steep angle to each other. The discovery will affect theories of how multi-planet systems evolve and shows that violent events can disrupt the orbits of planets after a system forms. See article.
g Life - A United Nations report has little good to say about the health of biodiversity in the world. The report says national governments have failed to honor a biodiversity protection treaty. As a result, the report says, the rate of plant and animal species disappearing is continuing faster than ever before. See article.
g Message - We’ve all heard of SETI, bit what about METI — “Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” or sending both scientific and artistic messages to the stars? See article.
g Learning - Watch videos, marvel at lush photos, interact with the universe, and much more courtesy of the History Channel. See article.
g Aftermath - We could retrieve a message from another world within just a few decades. Suddenly, the idea of “talking back” would become more than just a wry, dry academic straw man. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Enough oxygen on Europa and Earth’s 10 ‘new’ species

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 - Jupiter’s moon Europa has a salty ocean, and scientists have long wondered if life could be found there. One scientist says Europa also has enough oxygen to support an ocean teeming with life. See article.
g Life - Species explorers at ASU have announced this year's top 10 list of new species. The list features species from around the world and includes a minnow with fangs, a carnivorous sponge and sea slug that eats insects. See article.
g Learning - Let kids explore every planet in the Solar System (as well as the Sun and the Asteroid Belt) with pictures and detailed information on each of them – including the mythological roots of their names – at The Eight Planets – Just for Kids.
g Aftermath - Here’s a fascinating idea: A group of serious scientists, writers, military leaders and others discussing how to establish a constructive dialogue between humanity and ETI, once contact is made. See article.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Phoenix Lander dies and would your neighbors wig our if first contact were made?

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 - The search for life on other planets focuses on water, but researchers argue that – judging from our own planet – a large fraction of water conditions may be inhospitable to life. See article.
g Life - It's been 30 years since Mother Nature kicked off an experiment in creative destruction at Mount St. Helens, and today the volcano serves as a prime example of how life adapts to changing conditions. See article.
g Message - Whenever the director of SETI research presents a public lecture, she can almost guarantee that “What If everybody is listening and nobody is transmitting?” will be one of the questions the audience asks. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - NASA's Phoenix mission has ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the lander were unsuccessful. A new image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that Phoenix's solar panels may have suffered severe ice damage during the cold, dark winter. See article.
g Learning - David Morrison has joined the SETI Institute staff as the Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe. See article.
g Aftermath - Imagine that tomorrow morning scientists tell the world they've found evidence for a colony of aliens living only 35 million miles from Earth. Do you think your neighbors would wig out - stocking up on Ramen noodles, and secluding themselves and the family schnauzer in the basement? Or do you believe most folks would simply mutter "whatever," and go back to checking out new Facebook friends? See article.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Making planet Earth a member of the Galactic Club and star devouring planet

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 - WASP-12b is the hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy and may also be the shortest-lived. Observations with a new instrument on the Hubble telescope show the planet being eaten by its parent star. See article.
g Abodes - New studies on the carbon isotopes present in ancient plants and microorganism communities in modern soils are helping scientists improve climate change models. The studies are also providing new insight into the co-evolution of life and our planet. See article.
g Life - Researchers may have determined a way to glean new information from ancient, poorly preserved fossils. Remnants of stromatolites that are billions of years old could help astrobiologists identify when microorganisms first began using photosynthesis to harvest energy from sunlight. See article.
g Message - In this essay, David Schwartzman explains how we can communicate with intelligent aliens, finally making planet Earth a member of the Galactic Club. See article.
g Cosmicus - The Phoenix Mars Lander hasn't risen from a long winter encased in dry ice in the frozen northern latitudes of the red planet. See article.
g Learning - Why do so few women pursue careers in computer science? In 2007, only 18.6 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees went to women, according to the National Science Foundation. In the work force, women make up just 26 percent of computer scientists, compared to 41 percent of life scientists. See article.
g Aftermath - Over the past forty years, astronomers have intermittently observed the heavens with radio telescopes, looking for signs of intelligent life around distant stars. During its early decades, this search was limited by the amount of time available on major telescopes, as well as signal processing capability. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It’s more than ‘follow the water’ and Big Ear tribute page

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 - Scientists may have found an answer to a basic cosmological question. If the universe is composed of matter and anti-matter, then how do we exist? See article.
g Abodes - The guiding principle in our current search for alien biology is "follow the water." But the new research suggests this target needs to be refined. See article.
g Life - Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have created a synthetic bacterial cell using manufactured DNA – and it’s created a debate in ethics. See article.
g Message - In late 1997, after almost 40 years of operation, the Ohio State University Radio Observatory and its "Big Ear" radio telescope — which picked up the famous “Wow!” signal — ceased operation. The land on which the observatory was sitting (owned by the Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio) was sold in 1983 to land developers who later claimed their rights to develop the property. The telescope was destroyed in early 1998. See Web page memorial to Big Ear.
g Cosmicus - This week the United States will come one step closer to one of those moments of sudden realization that are actually years in the making. The shuttle Atlantis pulled away from the International Space Station on Sunday and began preparing for it final scheduled landing Wednesday. See article.
g Learning - When we look up at the night sky, we seek planets, stars, and often our own Moon. The understanding of HOW and WHY planets orbit the Sun developed slowly. A thoughtful person who watched the day and night sky could conclude that the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets orbit the Earth which sits still at the center of the universe. Worldwide, most cultures developed just such a model and it is a part of many ancient cosmologies. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Advancing technology in the search for ETI and charting evolution in action

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 - Ever since Darwin, researchers have tried to explain the enormous diversity of plumage color traits in birds. Now researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are adding something new to this particular field of research, which is so rich in tradition, by demonstrating how a bird can become red instead of yellow. See article.
g Intelligence - Sleeping newborns are better learners than thought, says a University of Florida researcher about a study that is the first of its type. The study could lead to identifying those at risk for developmental disorders such as autism and dyslexia. See article.
g Message - Looking for life elsewhere is a tough task for human or robot. The good news is that the scientific skill and tools to search for, detect and inspect extraterrestrial life are advancing rapidly. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Radio vs. optical in the search for ETI and liquid erosion 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 Stars - Supermassive black holes with the mass of many millions of stars have been detected at the centre of many large galaxies. A super-massive black hole acts like a lurking "monster" at the centre of the galaxy which swallows the surrounding material through the intensity of its gravitational pull. X-ray observations indicate that a large amount of energy is produced by the in-fall of matter into a black hole, and ejected in powerful jets. Astronomers have now shown that these jets eject matter not only from their host galaxies but even the gas between the galaxy group members. See article.
g Abodes - It appears flash flooding has paved streambeds in the Xanadu region of Saturn's moon Titan with thousands of sparkling crystal balls of ice, according to scientists with NASA's Cassini spacecraft. By analyzing the way the terrain has scattered radar beams, scientists deduce the spheres measure at least a few centimeters and maybe up to a couple of meters in diameter. The spheres likely originated as part of water-ice bedrock in higher terrain in Xanadu. See article.
g Message - While advanced civilizations might be tempted to use optical means such as lasers to send information between the stars, there are some good reasons that nearly all the major Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiments are looking for radio waves instead. See article. Note: This article is from 1996.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Technical manifestations that make ETI detectable and white dwarfs’ age calculated

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 - An international team of scientists has precisely calculated the age of a group of white dwarf stars. The research results open up new opportunities for advancing our understanding of the evolution of stars, plasma physics, and the origin of the universe in general. See article.
g Life - Most venomous snakes are legendary for their lethal bites, but not all. Some spit defensively. A few cobras defend themselves by spraying debilitating venom into the eyes of an aggressor. See article.
g Message - What technological manifestations would make an advanced extraterrestrial civilization detectable? See paper. Note: This paper was written in 1992.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

What to say to ETI and supernova in 3-D

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 - Researchers have now carried out the first fully three-dimensional computer simulations of a core collapse supernova over a timescale of hours after the initiation of the blast. They thus could answer the question of how initial asymmetries, which emerge deep in the dense core during the very early stages of the explosion, fold themselves into inhomogeneities observable during the supernova blast. See article.
g Life - How can a tiny spider body contain material for several decimeters of gossamer silk, and what governs the conversion to thread? See article.
g Message - "If you're sending a message to extraterrestrials, what you want to send is what's special about us and our planet — what is unusual," according to SETI astronomer Frank Drake. See his essay. Note: This essay is from 2006.
g Learning - The recent brouhaha over whether there’s compelling evidence for life on Mars offers a stark lesson about research life: a major scientific discovery is a temptress as beguiling, and as dangerous, as the Sirens that beckoned Ulysses. See article. Note: This article is from 2005.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sure sign of an alien intelligence and evolving to live at higher elevations

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Intelligence - Researchers have long wondered why the people of the Tibetan Highlands can live at elevations that cause some humans to become life-threateningly ill - and a new study answers that mystery, in part, by showing that through thousands of years of natural selection, those hardy inhabitants of south-central Asia evolved 10 unique oxygen-processing genes that help them live in higher climes. See article.
g Message - What would be a sign of alien intelligence? Forget mathematics — try a simple, pure-tone radio signal. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - The first hypersonic X-51 scramjet powered long-duration flights to give the Pentagon a new "Prompt Global Strike" capability that ties atmospheric and space propulsion will begin as early as May 25 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The X-vehicle scramjet flight tests are also a key step for the use of air breathing propulsion to launch into space. See article.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding oceans and continents on exoworlds and aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures

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 way of comparing the color and intensity changes of light reflected off of Earth's surface to the flickers from exoplanets may help reveal the presence of oceans, continents and – possibly – life on alien worlds. See article.
g Life - A mass extinction of fish 360 million years ago may have set the stage for modern vertebrate biodiversity. The extinction occurred just as vertebrates crawled from the sea to land, and the few survivors were the evolutionary starting point for the vertebrates that survive today. See article.
g Cosmicus - Europe's second robotic space cargo vessel is headed for its South American launch site in preparation for a delivery mission to the International Space Station later this year. See article.
g Aftermath - Among scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, it’s quite common to be focused on the future, ever mindful that it could take years, or even decades, to find a signal from otherworldly intelligence. But if historian Steve Dick has his way, astronomers will also turn their attention toward the past as they search for life beyond Earth — to discover the aftereffects of contact between two intelligent cultures. See article. Note: This article is from 2003.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New probe destined for Venus and when should SETI throw in the towel?

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 Japanese space probe is poised to launch toward Venus today to help solve the enduring mysteries of the hellish, cloud-covered world, which has been often described as Earth's twin. See article.
g Message - At what point should SETI throw in the towel? See article.
g Cosmicus - A new study finds that microbes on spacecraft might be able to survive on Mars longer than previously thought. The key to their survival? Dust. See article.
g Learning - Here’s an interesting classroom activity: “Who Can Live Here?” Students explore the limits of life on Earth to extend their beliefs about life to include its possibility on other worlds.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Psychology of civilizations engaged in interstellar communication and new fossils from a time of intense diversification of life on Earth

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 group of scientists associated with the Jet Propulsion Lab recently studied the Tecopa lake beds as a way of understanding the future. See article.
g Life - Exceptionally preserved fossils are providing new information about life in the oceans between 480 million and 472 million years ago. This period, known as the Ordovician, marks a time of intense diversification of life on Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - When space exploration comes to grief, let us at least moderate the temptation to damn the enterprise just because of its clear component of bravado and adventure. Gene Rodenberry pictured the best of our descendants as those who would "boldly go where no one had gone before." He simply said what all of us truly know: there is enormous value in the "going." See article. Note: This article is from 2003.
g Learning - Recently rocket scientists, politicians, engineers and educators came together in Los Angeles to explore current and future business opportunities in space at the “Transforming Space” conference. Leaders from Congress, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, universities and major aerospace businesses discussed the current and future prospects for both private and public space programs. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Aftermath - If we establish communication with a civilization even as close as 100 light years from Earth, the round-trip time for a message and its reply is 200 years. What will be the psychology of a civilization that can engage in a meaningful conversation with this sort of delay? How is such a conversation to be established? What should the content of such a conversation be? See article.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

A star is born and why is SETI nearly exclusively an American game?

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 vast hole in space has been unexpectedly discovered in a part of the universe thought to be packed with a cloud of dense gas and dust. See article.
g Abodes - Water is essential for life as we know it, and some scientists believe that the water on Earth was delivered by comets after the planet's formation. Now, a new study of silver in meteorites and Earth rocks tells a different story. See article.
g Message - Why is SETI nearly exclusively an American game? See article. Note: This article is from 2008.
g Cosmicus - Stephen Hawking is best known for thinking about time, space, and those teratoid trash mashers known as black holes. But in a recent talk in Hong Kong, the famous physicist digressed from his usual subject matter to tell the audience that they’d better get off the island, and he didn’t mean Kowloon. Instead, the Cambridge don was urging the crowd to get off the whole, gosh-darn planet. Hawking was hawking space colonization. See article. Note: This article is from 2006.
g Aftermath - Astronomers are searching hard for that first interstellar phone-call from ET. But when it happens, how will we react? Will it be a major trauma for humankind, or a new beginning? See article. Note: This article is from 2004.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mars at one moment in time and what do we do after contact?

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Cosmicus - NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars recently participated in a public photography project called 'A Moment in Time.' On May 2 at 15:00 UTC, people all around the world took a photograph to show the variety of life on our world. Opportunity joined in, adding a moment in time from the surface of Mars. See article.
g Learning - Some have called astrobiology the “science without a subject”. So why is astrobiology now receiving funding? See article.
g Aftermath - Though an older Web posting, “After Contact, Then What?” shows how little we’ve thought about this question.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Detecting the morphology of extrasolar organisms and ‘Through the Wormhole’

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 recent paper describes what could be the next steps of the direct characterization of habitable exoplanets after first the medium and large mission projects and investigate the benefits of the spectroscopic and direct imaging approaches. The paper argues that after third and fourth generation missions foreseeable for the next 100 years, we will face a very long era before being able to see directly the morphology of extrasolar organisms. See article. Note: This paper is from 2009.
g Message - The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call. See article. Note: This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - Unmanned blimps or balloons flying for thousands of kilometers could offer a bird’s eye view of planets and moons. See article.
g Learning - The Science Channel explores the mysteries of the universe in new series “Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman,” premiering Wednesday, June 9. See article.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Earth’s ‘shadow’ biosphere and ETI’s science

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 - Volcanoes play a major role in Earth's climate, as evidenced by the recent eruption in Iceland. Some volcanic activity that isn't quite as visible, like the ocean's version of the La Brea Tarpits off the Santa Barbara coast, also has an effect on life. See article.
g Life - In the past couple of decades we have found a shadow biosphere, except that far from lurking in the cracks it turns out to be the biggest, most critical, biosphere on the planet. See article.
g Message - The Harvard SETI Group have conducted several searches for extraterrestrial life since 1978. Here’s a history of those searches.
g Cosmicus - NASA's Ames Research Center generated 5,300 jobs and $877 million in total annual economic activity in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area in 2009, according to a new economic benefits study. See article.
g Learning - The fact that stories about 2012 are not discussed in science journals or reported at science meetings is a strong warning that Nibiru and pole shift and the like are not real. They represent a hoax, plain and simple. See article.
g Imagining - What might science on another world be like? Does the fact that two civilizations share a common technology for the transmission of electromagnetic radiation imply that they have equivalent versions of physics or mathematics? See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Aftermath - If some day SETI succeeds in detecting a signal from extraterrestrials, we will be faced with the frustration of not knowing as much about the senders of the signal as we would like. As with all scientific experiments, it will be vital for us to sift through the data, always careful not to jump to hasty conclusions. By better understanding how our own biases might creep into our interpretation of the data, we will be better prepared to remain as objective as possible. Humankind will face many important decisions upon detecting ET, such as whether or not we should reply. It would be unfortunate indeed if those decisions were based more on personal prejudice than on well-reasoned analysis. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How phosphorous may have led to life and why visiting Earth probably isn't high on ETI’s to-do list

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 - The evolution of complex life forms may have gotten a jump start billions of years ago, when geologic events operating over millions of years caused large quantities of phosphorus to wash into the oceans. According to this model, proposed in a new paper by Dominic Papineau of the Carnegie Institution for Science, the higher levels of phosphorus would have caused vast algal blooms, pumping extra oxygen into the environment which allowed larger, more complex types of organisms to thrive. See article.
g Life - The definition of “life” is still unsettled in the world of science. Although at first glance, it may seem simple to distinguish the living from the nonliving, in recent years nature has provided researchers with many examples that challenge the boundary of the organic. See article.
g Message - When it comes to alien activities, visiting Earth seems to be pretty high on the "to do" list. But does that make sense? See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - Cells grown in microgravity generate problematic proteins (absent in normal stem cells) that play a role in bone deterioration. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat lesson for middle school students about extraterrestrials, courtesy of the Discovery channel.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Democratic aliens and stretching out missions to 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 - Scientists have discovered that simple peptides can form membranes that may have been essential for life's origin. The contents of all living cells are surrounded by membranes that separate cells from their surrounding environment. The origin of such membranes is thought to be an essential step in the beginnings of life as we know it. See article.
g Message - Stephen Hawking has warned that we might do better to curb our search for extraterrestrial life before something unwanted finds us first. Here, Lewis Darnell considers why the search for extraterrestrials fires the imagination. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA is considering a plan to get around limited budgets set in Washington by stretching out missions to bring back samples from Mars. See article.
g Learning - The 2010 Astrobiology Science Conference was a wild rodeo of ideas, debates, and scientific discovery. Although there was far too much science presented over four days to cover in full, this round-up provides a few highlights See article.
g Imagining - Although its still two years until the next presidential election, were already seeing signs of politicians positioning themselves for the Oval Office. If extraterrestrials someday pick up our radio and television broadcasts, hearing the latest news of political jockeying, will they be flabbergasted by our methods of choosing a leader? Would the idea of one vote per person seem hopelessly quaint to an advanced alien nation? See article.
g Aftermath - The scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence is accelerating its pace and adopting fresh strategies. This increases the likelihood of successful detection in the near future. Humanity's first contact with alien intelligence will trigger extraordinary attention from the media, from government authorities, and from the general public. By improving our readiness for contact, especially for security during the first 30 days, we can avoid the most negative scenarios — and also enhance humanity's benefits from this first contact with an alien intelligence. Six potential problem areas include communicating with the media and the public, communicating with scientific colleagues, government control, an assassin or saboteur, well-meaning officials and lawsuits. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Organisms living in liquid asphalt and Voyager 2 in trouble

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 - Single-celled organisms found in lakes of liquid asphalt may indicate the type of extreme life that could exist on Saturn’s moon, Titan. See article.
g Life - NASA's Mars Meteorite Research Team reopened a 14-year-old controversy on extraterrestrial life, reaffirming and offering support for its widely challenged assertion that a 4-billion-year-old meteorite that landed thousands of years ago on Antarctica shows evidence of microscopic life on Mars. See article.
g Cosmicus - The Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977, is now having problems talking to Earth. Engineers are trying to figure out how to resume normal communications with this envoy at the edge of the solar system. See article.
g Aftermath - Even if the public seems less than awestruck by the prospect that alien life is a bunch of microscopic bugs, astrobiologists say unequivocal discovery of microbial life beyond Earth will change human society in profound ways, some unfathomable today. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Penning letters to ETI and a scientist defends Obama’s space vision

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 - How could liquid water exist on Europa, such a small world, so far from the Sun? The answer is tidal heating. See article. Note: This article is from 2002.
g Life - For nearly a decade, Jillian Banfield and her UC Berkeley colleagues have been studying the microbe community that lives in one of the most acidic environments on Earth: the drainage from a former copper mine in Northern California. One group of these microbes, dubbed ARMAN, seems to be smaller, and weirder, than any other known, free-living organism. Occasionally, it gets impaled by it larger neighbors. See article.
g Message - Famed physicist Stephen Hawking set off chatter in the scientific community in late April when he posited the existence of intelligent aliens on his new TV series, "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking" —adding that it would be best for human beings to avoid contact with them. See article.
g Cosmicus - A scientist says the Obama administration's new plan for NASA is not an abandonment of a return to the Moon but rather replacing it with a much more visionary approach, restoring the agency's leadership in human exploration of the Solar System. See article.
g Learning - Walking past the open door of a writer's workshop that was held recently at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, much of the conversation was of the sort you might expect from any other group of students honing their craft as creative writers. They pondered which aspects of the human condition are most important to convey through their art. They examined their motivations for writing. And continually, they struggled to make themselves understood by readers who may be very different from themselves. But there is a critical difference from other creative writing classes. The intended audience for this class - if it exists at all - lives on a planet circling a distant star. See article. Note: This article is from 2007.
g Aftermath - Scientists such as the SETI Institute’s John Billingham and Jill Tarter have taken the lead in planning for the day we might receive a signal from life beyond Earth. Working with diplomats and space lawyers, they have helped develop protocols that guide the activities of SETI scientists who think they may have detected extraterrestrial intelligence. See article. Note: This story is a few years old.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mars undergoing climate change and communicating between two alien species

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 - Mars is a very windy place — so windy, in fact, that bright, oxidized Martian soil is being scoured away by Martian winds and dust devils to reveal darker, sub-surface soil with the end result of making the whole planet warmer. Mars is experiencing its own brand of climate change. See article.
g Life - Scientists have discovered a microbe living deep in former copper mines that contains one of the smallest genomes ever reported. The ultra-small microbe can teach astrobiologists about how small life can be, and will help us understand how to search for tiny microbes on other worlds. See article.
g Cosmicus - Later this year, a human-like robot will become a resident of the International Space Station (ISS). Robonaut 2 will join the ISS crew in order to test how the robot operates in weightlessness. In the future, robots like Robonaut could help humans perform science experiments in space and explore the surface of other worlds, like Mars. See article.
g Aftermath - In the absence of knowledge of physical and cultural clues, communication between two species can be almost impossible — almost. See article.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Good news for finding fossils on Mars and ETI signals beamed at Earth

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 preliminary analysis of elderly stars in the Milky Way appears to strike a blow against the prevailing theory of galaxy formation. The study suggests that several large and seemingly disparate chunks of the Milky Way galaxy formed at the same time from the collapse of a single blob of gas and dust. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers have imaged three distant exoplanets using only a modest-sized, ground-based telescope. The surprising feat could be repeated using larger telescopes, providing more information about exoplanets than previously thought possible with current technology. See article.
g Life - Tiny fossils discovered on Earth in samples of sulfates, a class of minerals recently found to be common in some parts of Mars, bodes well for finding vestiges of life on the Red Planet, astrobiologists reported. See article.
g Message - Since the invention of the radio, humans have been broadcasting signals into outer space. Other civilizations in our galaxy might be doing the same. They might even be deliberately sending out signals to find other civilizations. Someone out there may even be beaming a signal directly at the Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA engineers catapulted the new Orion crew capsule about a mile into the air Thursday morning as hundreds of people gathered to watch. See article.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Exoplanets orbiting ‘backward’ and ‘Don’t talk to 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 - The discovery of nine new planets challenges theories of how planets form. Unlike our solar system, two of the planets orbit in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star. See article.
g Life - Using ancient DNA preserved in mammoth bones, scientists have learned how the extinct species survived extreme cold. The study could provide new insights into the history of life on Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - Researchers at the biennial Astrobiology Science Conference described a series of ambitious new projects they say will continue the search for extraterrestrial life. See article.
g Imagining - Like stories about alien biologies/environments? Be sure to scour your favorite used bookstores for Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” (1970) and the sequel, “Ringworld Engineers” (1980). See article.
g Aftermath - Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist, has created a stir with his new Discovery Channel TV series "Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking," saying Earth should be careful looking for aliens, because they likely won't come in peace. "Don't talk to aliens" is how the Times of London headlined its story. See article.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

ETI would understand interconnectedness of life on Earth and proposed space observatory passes critical test

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 – Greenhouse gases containing fluorine molecules are among the worst environmental offenders because they trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere most efficiently, according to a new NASA study. See article.
g Life – A new study shows that aphids are genetic pioneers and have evolved unique traits. Aphids are the only animals that produce pigments known as carotenoids. They may have acquired this trait by "snatching" genes from fungi. The study can help astrobiologists understand mechanisms behind evolution. See article.
g Message – Recent discussions within the SETI community have thoroughly explored the issue of whether people with access to radio telescopes should send powerful signals to alien civilizations without some process of prior international consultation. In particular, those exchanges have focused on the question of "Active SETI".
g Cosmicus – NASA's hotly-anticipated new space observatory has passed its most significant mission milestone yet – a critical design review that sets the stage for a planned 2014 launch. See article.
g Aftermath – If aliens ever do darken our doorstep, one thing will be readily apparent to them that often escapes us: The creatures that roam this planet, whether they have six legs or two, wings, arms or flippers, belong to the same family. See column.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Modifying the Drake Equation and is Pandora possible?

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 – Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, has revealed intricate details of the gas giant planet and its moons - but many mysteries remain. See article.
g Life – Aphids may be the only animals that can get a colorful type of nutrient without having to eat their veggies. See article.
g Message – Should we modify the Drake Equation to account for civilizations which actually engage in deliberate interstellar transmission? See article.
g Cosmicus – No single nation has the necessary resources to take on complete and thorough space exploration on its own, astronauts said recently at the 26th National Space Symposium, held in Colorado Springs earlier this month. Therefore, the only possible solution to advance research in astrophysics, astronomy and astrobiology is international cooperation. See article.
g Imagining – Moderated by astronomer and visualization scientist Robert Hurt, of the NASA/Caltech/JPL Spitzer Space Telescope Center, panelists recently watched clips from the film "Avatar" and analyzed them for their real-world relevance, focusing on the intriguing question: "Is Pandora possible?" See article.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

No firm evidence of life on Mars and reflections on humanity's first contact with ETI

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 – Climate change that occurred some 720 million years ago is providing scientists with insight into what can happen when the Earth's carbon cycle is altered. The research could help astrobiologists understand the history of Earth's climate and processes that could shape the future of life on our planet. See article.
g Life – AWednesday article in a British tabloid carried the headline "NASA: Evidence of Life on Mars," leaving scientists from the space agency wondering if there's intelligent life in the Sun. See article.
g Learning – Hostile aliens or legitimate subject of study? That's one of the questions being raised about all manner of unexplained space phenomena, as debate about extraterrestrial life and UFOs has been sighted in more mainstream venues over the last few weeks. See article.
g Aftermath – Here’s an intriguing paper published just last month and translated from German for Astrosociology.com: “Futurological Reflections on the Confrontation of Mankind with an Extraterrestrial Civilization”.

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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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Saturday, May 01, 2010

ETI wouldn't invade Earth and why the search for alien life is worth it

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 – When scientists got an unprecedented up-close view of Pluto from the Hubble telescope recently, they found mysterious bright and dark spots mottling the dwarf planet's surface. Now researchers think they have a better guess at what's causing those weird spots. See article.
g Life – Scientists have known for some time that migratory birds have smaller brains than their resident relatives. Now a new study looks into the reasons and concludes that the act of migrating leads to a reduced brain size. See article.
g Message – The search for alien life is worth it - even if we find nothing, it still forces us to think about who we are and why we are here. Even flights of fancy can serve a deeper purpose. See editorial.
g Cosmicus – A visionary zeal to seek new worlds and new civilizations is a factual enterprise for a new generation of galactic explorers. They are taking on spacetime and hoping to boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before — out to far-flung stars and the planets that circle them. There is no doubt there are worlds out there beyond our own cabal of planets, but even if you've got the heaviest of foot on the accelerator, plotting a speedy route to the stars is not easy. See article.
g Aftermath – The human race could be devastated if aliens were to learn of our existence and venture to Earth, warned British scientist Stephen Hawking on Sunday. But how could extraterrestrials really invade Earth? See article.

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