Friday, December 31, 2010

SETI Down Under and Americans in space during 2011

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 - They'll drill through four ice ages, epic sandstorms, humankind's migration from Africa to the New World, and the biggest droughts in history. Tel Aviv University is heading an international study that for the first time will dig deep beneath the Dead Sea, 500 meters (about a third of a mile) down under 300 meters (about a fifth of a mile) of water. Drilling with a special rig, the researchers will look back in time to collect a massive amount of information about climate change and earthquake patterns. See article.
g Life - New research leads investigators to believe that woolly mammoths living north of the Arctic Circle during the Pleistocene Epoch (approx. 150,000 to 40,000 years ago) began weaning infants up to three years later than modern day African elephants due to prolonged hours of darkness. See article.
g Intelligence - The continuing controversy surrounding the announcement of strange bacteria deep in a California lake that can apparently survive on arsenic and even incorporate the element into its DNA is being held up as a shining example for how the scientific process works. See article.
g Message - What are our friends south of the equator doing in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence? After all, the Northern Hemisphere only covers half of the galaxy. See article.
g Cosmicus - From private spaceflights to NASA missions to the moon, Mars and beyond, the next year promises to be a busy one for Americans in space. Here's a preview of just some of the coming attractions for U.S. spaceflight in 2011. See article.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Martian blue and private space industry’s big plans for 2011

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 Mars movie clip gives us a rover's-eye view of a bluish Martian sunset, while another clip shows the silhouette of the moon Phobos passing in front of the sun. See article.
g Life - Rodents get a bad rap as vermin and pests because they seem to thrive everywhere. They have been one of the most common mammals in Africa for the past 50 million years. See article.
g Message - Here’s a neat Web site: “Interstellar Messaging”. You’ll find discussion, history and real-world examples of mankind's methods and ongoing attempts to communicate with extraterrestrials.
g Cosmicus - The private space industry has long been viewed as fledgling. But this once-pejorative term has taken on new meaning this year, as a roster of successes and fast-paced growth throughout 2010 suggests private spaceflight is ready to take off in 2011. See article.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Habitable Gliese 581g and astrobiology in Yellowstone

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 alien planet Gliese 581g has been getting a lot of attention recently as a possibly habitable world, but a case is building for its next-door neighbor as a good candidate for extraterrestrial life, too. See article.
g Life - Penn State researchers have found that native pollinators, like wild bees and wasps, are infected by the same viral diseases as honey bees and that these viruses are transmitted via pollen. This multi-institutional study provides new insights into viral infections in native pollinators, suggesting that viral diseases may be key factors impacting pollinator populations. See article.
g Message - How might we detect an extraterrestrial messenger probe already in the solar system? See article. This article is from 1983.
g Cosmicus - The Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum is asking for help in selecting an iconic stamp to represent the United States in an international gallery — and one of its choices celebrates the first moon landing. See article.
g Learning - A free e-book on astrobiology research in Yellowstone National Park is now free online from Montana State University and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Schools, museums and science centers can receive free printed copies for educational use.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Martian fault lines and teens message 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 Stars - Some of the brightest stellar explosions in the galaxy may be flying under astronomers' radar, a new study suggests. See article.
g Abodes - New images of Mars' Phoenix Lake region show where complex fault lines along a vast Martian plain have resulted in terrain with contrasting light and dark appearances. See article.
g Message - In 2001, a group of Russian teens from Moscow, Kaluga, Voronezh and Zheleznogorsk participated directly and via the Internet in composing a Teen-Age Message to extraterrestrial intelligence, and in the selection of target stars. Their message was transmitted in the autumn of that year, from the Evpatoria Deep Space Center. See article. This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - An international team of researchers has announced a breakthrough that gives a new spin to semiconductor nanoelectronics and the world of information technology. See article.
g Learning - A panel of NASA judges will convene early next year to pick the best design among a number of competing space crafts. But they'll be vetting paintings and sculptures, not rovers and orbiters. See article.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Solar system’s bobbing path and ice volcanoes on Titan

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 puzzlingly regular waxing and waning of Earth's biodiversity may ultimately trace back to our solar system's bobbing path around the Milky Way, a new study suggests. See article.
g Abodes - The Cassini spacecraft has found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn's moon Titan. The unique moon continues to teach astrobiologists about the evolution of rocky bodies around giant planets and is helping scientists understand if such worlds could support habitable environments. See article.
g Life - Experiments by a team of researchers in New York and New Jersey have generated evidence that questions the common belief that the pterygotid eurypterids ("sea scorpions") were high-level predators in the Paleozoic oceans. This group, which ranged the seas from about 470 to 370 million years ago (long before the dinosaurs appeared), included the largest and, arguably, scariest-looking arthropods known to have evolved on planet Earth. See article.
g Cosmicus - SPACE.com recently chatted with astronomer Chris Impey about what the future has in store, and whether we should fear it. See article.
g Aftermath - Would dutiful American citizens trust the government to handle first contact with extraterrestrials and rush to get information to the public? See article. This article is from 1999.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Balloon over Titan and the foundations of 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 change in the Earth’s orbit, many scientists believe, transformed the “Green Sahara” into what is now the largest desert on the planet. While scientists are still trying to find out if the slow shift in orbit had rapid or gradual environmental consequences, they say Earth’s orbit will continue to change today and into the future. See article.
g Life - Forget little green men on Mars - aliens could be right here on Earth, a leading scientist has claimed. See article. This article is from 2009.
g Cosmicus - The next mission to Titan could provide a bird's-eye view of that intriguing Saturn moon, if scientists agree to send a balloon or blimp cruising through its skies for months. See article.
g Learning - That glittering star topping your Christmas tree isn't there just to look pretty – it represents the Star of Bethlehem, which glowed overhead when Jesus was born, according to the Bible. But some scientists believe the star was not a star at all, but three planets. See article.
g Aftermath - Over the past two decades, advances in a number of scientific disciplines have helped us better understand the nature and evolution of life on Earth. These scientific developments also have helped lay the foundation for astrobiology, opening up new possibilities for the existence of life in the Solar System and beyond. See article. This article is from 2001.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Variety of habitable zones and perchlorate in Martian soil

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 variety of new findings point to the "habitable zones" where we're likely to find extraterrestrials. See article. This article is from 2009.
g Abodes - For the first time ever, a scientist has measured the strength of the magnetic field inside Earth's core, some 1,800 miles underground. See article.
g Life - A major new fossil site in southwest China has filled in a sizeable gap in our understanding of how life on this planet recovered from the greatest mass extinction of all time, according to a new paper. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory report for the first time how animals' knowledge obtained through past experiences can subconsciously influence their behavior in new situations. See article.
g Message - Since SETI first became a subject for serious scientific research, scientists have come up with many possible ways to detect the presence of other civilizations by searching our part of the galaxy for signs of artificially created signals. Using many different kinds of detection equipment and novel concepts, investigators labored away in their electronics laboratories and observatories dreaming, that one day, the signs they had been searching for would be found. See article.
g Cosmicus - NASA’s IceBite team was in Antarctica this month to test a new drill for use on a possible future mission to Mars. In this entry of their expedition blog, Margarita Marinova describes preparations for the trip to remote University Valley. Team member Andrew Jackson writes about his focus on perchlorate, a compound also in the soil of Mars. See article.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Continuing arsenic in life controversy and changing an asteroid's course

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 - Researchers have uncovered a clue that may help to explain why the earliest evidence of complex multicellular animal life appears around 550 million years ago, when atmospheric oxygen levels on the planet rose sharply from 3% to their modern day level of 21%. See article.
g Life - First, NASA hinted at a finding tied to extraterrestrial life. But it was just the discovery of arsenic-eating bacteria in Mono Lake. Then came the skeptical scientists. See article.
g Intelligence - A 30,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in southern Siberia came from a young girl who was neither an early modern human nor a Neanderthal, but belonged to a previously unknown group of human relatives who may have lived throughout much of Asia during the late Pleistocene epoch. Although the fossil evidence consists of just a bone fragment and one tooth, DNA extracted from the bone has yielded a draft genome sequence, enabling scientists to reach some startling conclusions about this extinct branch of the human family tree, called "Denisovans" after the cave where the fossils were found. 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 Cosmicus - A flotilla of solar sail spacecraft could change the course of the asteroid Apophis — which is headed a little too close to Earth for comfort — by shading the space rock from solar radiation, according to a French researcher. See article.
g Learning - The European Space Agency invites you to get inspiration from our images of stars, planets, spaceflight and of our own planet Earth seen from space and to create your own work of art. Choose your favorite image from the selection on our Wall, let your imagination run wild, create your art and share it with us. The creations that collect the most “Likes” will win the competition. See rules.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Species diversification and will universal fear doom SETI?

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 new study from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory tells scientists how often the biggest black holes have been active over the last few billion years. The object could help scientists better understand how massive stars explode, which ones leave behind black holes or neutron stars, and how many black holes are in our galaxy and others. See article.
g Abodes - NASA’s IceBite team was in Antarctica this month testing a new drill built by Honeybee Robotics for use on a possible future mission to Mars. In this blog entry, Kris Zacny writes about the successful test of the Icebreaker drill in Antarctica’s remote University Valley. See article.
g Life - New research on lizards in the Caribbean demonstrates that species diversification is limited by the environment. The finding supports and extends the MacArthur-Wilson theory of island biogeography. See article.
g Message - Will universal fear doom SETI to a continuation of the Great Silence? In a response to David Brin’s Zoo Hypothesis argument, here’s a SETI League editorial.
g Cosmicus - team of scientists has discovered Möbius symmetry in metamaterials - materials engineered from artificial "atoms" and "molecules" with electromagnetic properties that arise from their structure rather than their chemical composition. See article.
g Learning - NASA has selected the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. of Falls Church, Va., to administer a $1 million career development and educational program designed to address the critical shortage of U.S. minority students in science and engineering fields. See article.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Searching for ETI’s probes and hints of our multiverse

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 - The sky holds many wonders, such as stars, galaxies, supernovas, neutron stars and black holes, but now scientists claim it could hold something potentially more extraordinary — hints of an earlier universe, or even other universes. See article.
g Abodes - A Qatar astronomer teamed with scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and other institutions to discover a new alien world. This "hot Jupiter," now named Qatar-1b, adds to the growing list of alien planets orbiting distant stars. See article.
g Life - Computational biologists have used modern-day genomes to reconstruct the evolution of ancient microbes. The study provides new insight into the evolution of ancient life on Earth. See article.
g Intelligence - In a cave in Northern Spain, researchers have discovered clues to the identity of the victims of a mass murder committed 49,000 years ago. The butchered bones of 12 men, women, and children protruding from the floor may be the remains of an extended Neandertal family that were killed and eaten by their fellow Neandertals. Now, DNA analysis of the bones is providing rare clues into the family structure of these close cousins of modern humans. See article.
g Message - Interstellar spacecraft are superior to electromagnetic wave propagation for extrasolar exploration and communication. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence should include a search for extraterrestrial probes. See article.
g Cosmicus - People used to say that the Internet was all fun and games; it took years for it to become everything. The developer of Spaceship One thinks the same will happen with space travel.
See article.
g Aftermath - What role will extraterrestrials play in humanity’s future? Click here for a paper by University of Toronto Professor Allen Tough. Though written almost 20 years ago, the paper contains plenty of useful ideas that are fresh (and ignored) today, especially those about extraterrestrial behavior and help.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Felisa Wolfe-Simon comments on arsenic controversy and advanced ETI broadcasting their location

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 UK-led international team of astronomers have presented the first conclusive evidence for a dramatic surge in star birth in a newly discovered population of massive galaxies in the early universe. Their measurements confirm the idea that stars formed most rapidly about 11 billion years ago, or about three billion years after the Big Bang, and that the rate of star formation is much faster than was thought. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists have a new theory about how the strange ridge belting Saturn's outermost moon, Iapetus, formed. Understanding the Saturn system is important for astrobiologists trying to determine whether or not habitable environments could persist on the moons of giant planets. See article.
g Life - Tyrannosaurus rex may have been a fearsome carnivore, but many of its closest relatives were vegetarians, according to a new study. See article.
g Intelligence - In the tropical rainforest of Uganda's Kibale National Park, a young female chimpanzee seems to have adopted a stick. She's holding it close to her abdomen and carrying it with her everywhere she goes. In a new study, the first to document this behavior in the wild, researchers argue that stick cradling may be akin to human children playing with dolls. And because the team observed it far more frequently in female chimps, the findings suggest that certain gender-specific behaviors are hard-wired.
See article.
g Message - Would anyone deliberately beam high-powered signals into space? Can we assume that extraterrestrial societies would broadcast in ways that would mark their location as plainly as a flag on a golf green? See article.
g Learning - Three weeks ago, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, 33, a former performance oboist with a doctorate in oceanography and a NASA fellowship in astrobiology, published a paper online in Science about bacteria that can use arsenic instead of phosphorus in DNA and other biomolecules. Controversy has followed. Science recently offered this exclusive interview with Wolfe-Simon about the controversy. See interview.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Aliens inhabiting diamond-encrusted words and testing spacesuits for 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 - Some of the most gigantic explosions in space are curiously hard to see. That's because space dust is blocking the view from Earth, suggests the largest study of these blasts, so-called dark gamma-ray bursts. See article.
g Abodes - New forms of life may inhabit the exotic worlds encrusted with diamonds. See article.
g Life - On Dec. 2, NASA held a press conference to announce the discovery of a bacterium that has a novel biochemistry. The research made headlines around the world and sparked a great deal of scientific debate. See article.
g Intelligence - A small area deep in the brain called the perirhinal cortex is critical for forming unconscious conceptual memories, researchers have found. See article.
g Message - Among the most important SETI work is being done at Harvard University.
g Cosmicus - The Mars spacesuit designed by UND is going to Antarctica for testing because Antarctica is a lot like Mars. But first, they’re testing it at UND because North Dakota is a lot like Antarctica at this time of year. See article.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Using our sun to message ETI and amino acids found in meteorite

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 mapped a rare type of molecule in cosmic clouds that could reveal secrets about how stars form. See article.
g Abodes - Astronomers have discovered a fourth giant planet around a distant star, further strengthening the resemblances between this planetary system and our own. The study provides new information about the nature and abundance of solar systems and could aid in the search for habitable, Earth-like worlds. See article.
g Life - NASA-funded scientists have discovered amino acids, a fundamental building block of life, in a meteorite where none were expected. See article.
g Intelligence - A mother's voice will preferentially activate the parts of the brain responsible for language learning, say researchers who made the discovery after performing electrical recordings on the infants within the 24 hours following their birth. See article.
g Message - Our own sun might represent the best communications device around, if only we could harness its power, scientists say. See article.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Scientists respond to arsenic life criticism and how we might respond when we do discover 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 Stars - Our view of the early universe may be full of mysterious circles — and even triangles — but that doesn't mean we're seeing evidence of events that took place before the Big Bang. So says a trio of papers taking aim at a recent claim that concentric rings of uniform temperature within the cosmic microwave background — the radiation left over from the Big Bang — might, in fact, be the signatures of black holes colliding in a previous cosmic “aeon” that existed before our universe. See article.
g Abodes - What is the MEarth project? See article.
g Life - Backlash from the “arsenic life” paper that was published on Dec. 2, is still ongoing. Some of the criticism has been about the science, while much more criticism has been about the coverage of the news and also how NASA introduced, or “teased” the public with news, using the words “astrobiology” and “extraterrestrial life” in their announcement of an upcoming press conference. Now the science team behind the discovery has released a statement and some FAQ’s about the science paper. See article.
g Intelligence - The digitization of books by Google Books has sparked controversy over issues of copyright and book sales, but for linguists and cultural historians this vast project could offer an unprecedented treasure trove. In a paper published today in Science1, researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and the Google Books team in Mountain View, Calif., herald a new discipline called culturomics, which sifts through this literary bounty for insights into trends in what cultures can and will talk about through the written word. See article.
g Message - Here’s a quick, easy to understand primer to SETI’s radio searches and the Fermi Paradox.
g Cosmicus - A NASA Pluto probe may be slumbering at the moment, but it's still tearing through space at a blistering pace, closing in on the orbit of Uranus. See article.
g Learning - Plans are moving forward for the display of two of NASA's soon-to-be-retired space shuttles at the Smithsonian and Florida's Kennedy Space Center. See article.
g Aftermath - Humans have searched for extraterrestrial life for more than a century. What will we do when we find it? See article.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

First carbon-rich exoplanet 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 Abodes - Astronomers have discovered the first carbon-rich exoplanet. The discovery reveals new information about the diversity of worlds that exist beyond our solar system and could help astrobiologists understand where best to look for habitable worlds around distant stars. See article.
g Life - The P-T mass extinction may have been instigated by populations of algae dying. According to one group of scientists, this die-off of large numbers of relatively simple life forms caused a crash in the ocean's entire food web. See article.
g Intelligence - Medical researchers have found a missing link that explains the interaction between brain state and the neural triggers responsible for learning, potentially opening up new ways of boosting cognitive function in the face of diseases such as Alzheimer's as well as enhancing memory in healthy people. 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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Thursday, December 16, 2010

How impactors created the inner planets and detectable technical manifestations of 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 - New research reveals that the abundance of elements like gold and platinum found in the mantles of Earth, the Moon and Mars were delivered by massive impactors during the final phase of planet formation over 4.5 billion years ago. The study reveals new information about the formation and evolution of rocky planets. See article.
g Life - An unremarkable and slow-growing plant has stunned scientists after they found it had the world's largest genome – 50 times bigger than that of our own species. See article.
g Intelligence - Like the mute button on the TV remote control, our brains filter out unwanted noise so we can focus on what we're listening to. But when it comes to following our own speech, a new brain study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that instead of one homogenous mute button, we have a network of volume settings that can selectively silence and amplify the sounds we make and hear. See article.
g Message - What technological manifestations would make an advanced extraterrestrial civilization detectable? See article. Note: This paper is from 1992.
g Cosmicus - NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. The craft is getting closer and closer to interstellar space. For 33-year years, Voyager 1 has provided incredible data about the structure of our solar system and many of the outer planets and moons. See article.
g Learning - A new website lets astronomers — and anyone who likes to watch stuff blow up — calculate the damage a comet or asteroid would cause if it hit Earth. See article.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Places on Earth that resemble Mars and ‘The Evolutionary 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 - NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed what looks like a festive holiday bauble in space – a delicate sphere of gas floating serenely in the cosmos. See article.
g Abodes - While no place on Earth is exactly like Mars, various spots are quite similar to the red planet at different times in its past. A new study details the Martian ages and the places on Earth that best resemble them. See article.
g Life - Book alert: To earn the title of distinguished professor of geology at the University of California, Davis, Geerat Vermeij had to be an astute and careful observer, an original thinker and analyst, and a skilled teacher and communicator. All of those qualities are on display in his new book, “The Evolutionary World.” It is, as his subtitle notes, a fascinating look at “How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization.” See review.
g Intelligence - Researchers have shed new light on dopamine's role in the brain's reward system, which could provide insight into impulse control problems associated with addiction and a number of psychiatric disorders. See article.
g Message - If some day we decide to transmit intentional messages to the stars, rather than solely listen as current SETI programs do, what would we say? What sort of first impression would we want to give our celestial correspondents? See article. This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: “Do you have to act out the dreams of your mothers and fathers? If we had always done so, would we not still be sitting in the jungle in the middle of Africa, going in fear of the tribe in the next tree?” – Brian W. Aldiss, “White Mars”
g Learning - NASA funding will help launch a project that will use high-altitude scientific ballooning as part of an astrobiology curriculum in some 10th grade Maine classrooms. See article.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A solar system resembling our own and just what is ‘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 Stars - Violent explosions on the sun erupt on a phenomenal scale – one that envelopes the entire star – and are linked by massive magnetic threads that stretch across hundreds of thousands of miles, a new study finds. See article.
g Abodes - An international team of astronomers has discovered and imaged a fourth giant planet outside our solar system, a discovery that further strengthens the remarkable resemblances between a distant planetary system and our own. See article.
g Life - In the wake of controversy over the possible discovery of arsenic-eating life recently — a finding that could expand the bounds of what scientists think life is capable of — a basic question perhaps deserves revisiting: Just what, exactly, is life? See article.
g Intelligence - The ability to tolerate aggression is partly genetic, UCLA life scientists report in the first study to demonstrate a genetic component to a social network trait in a non-human population. 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. This article is from 2001.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Exwoworld encrusted in diamonds and ETI’s affect on our world view

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 - What is LOFAR, and how does it affect the search for ET? See article.
g Abodes - A team recently measured the first-ever planetary atmosphere that is substantially enriched in carbon. The researchers found that the carbon-to-oxygen ratio of WASP-12b, an exoplanet about 1.4 times the mass of Jupiter and located about 1,200 light years away, is greater than one. As they report in a paper to be published on Dec. 8 in Nature, this carbon-rich atmosphere supports the possibility that rocky exoplanets could be composed of pure carbon rocks like diamond or graphite rather than the silica-based rock found in Earth. See article.
g Life - A wave of reptile extinctions on the Greek islands over the past 15,000 years may offer a preview of the way plants and animals will respond as the world rapidly warms due to human-caused climate change, according to a University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues. See article.
g Intelligence - In communicating with each other, apes known as bonobos sometimes shake their heads — and one of the purposes for which they do this may be analogous to saying “no,” a study has found. See article.
g Message - What is OSETI? See article.
g Cosmicus - The spaceflight company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, launched the world's first commercial space capsule into orbit and returned to Earth today in a huge leap forward for California-based company, private spaceflight and NASA's plan to rely on such spacecraft in the future. See article.
g Aftermath - How would proof of extraterrestrial intelligence affect humanity’s “world” view? Astronomer Steve Dick discusses the matter in this transcribed Smithsonian Institute lecture, from 2000. See transcript.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

New images of Beta Peg and Armstrong recalls first moon walk

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 NASA-funded Large Binocular Telescope has taken its first images of the star Beta Peg. The telescope is designed to search for regions where Earth-like planets could exist, and its first observation is a promising start. See article.
g Life - We all know that crocodiles are reptiles with long snouts, conical teeth, strong jaws and long tails. But according to researchers at Stony Brook University in New York, we don’t know what we thought we knew. Rather, some crocodiles possessed a dazzling array of adaptations that resulted in unique and sometimes bizarre anatomy, including blunt, pug-nosed snouts, pudgy bodies and short tails. See article.
g Intelligence - Philosophers since ancient times have struggled with the question of whether humans have any free will. With forces such as God or molecular interactions — depending on whom you asked and when — said to ultimately control everything, can humans really make any decisions “independently”? See article.
g Message - Should we modify the Drake Equation to account for civilizations which actually engage in deliberate interstellar transmission? See editorial. This editorial is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong may be notoriously private, but the first man on the moon recently reached out to a reporter to share some new details about his famous moonwalk with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin in 1969. See article.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

New material could aid search for exoworlds and how societies 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 Abodes - A new blacker-than pitch material could help scientists gather hard-to-obtain scientific measurements or observe unseen astronomical objects like Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. The technological advancement could thereby aid astrobiologists in the search for habitable, extrasolar worlds. See article.
g Intelligence - Societies evolve somewhat similarly to the way living creatures do, in that increases in complexity tend to be gradual, according to new research published in the journal Nature. See article.
g Message - Want to help SETI discover alien life? If you haven’t already done so, download the free SETI at Home software. Using Internet-connected computers, the program downloads and analyzes radio telescope data on your desktop when it is idle. The program has been so successful in plowing through data that other scientific researchers, especially in medicine, are adopting it to their fields. See program.
g Cosmicus - For decades, the U.S. Department of Defense has operated classified spacecraft loaded with high-tech gear to carry out a range of reconnaissance duties. But the satellites have also spotted the high-altitude explosions of natural fireballs that routinely dive into the Earth's atmosphere, and talks are under way to offer scientists access to that data. See article.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Tree-like lifeforms on exoworlds and take astrobiology course for free

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 traced the waxing and waning light of exploding stars more closely than ever before and seen patterns that aren't yet accounted for in our current understanding of how these eruptions occur. See article.
g Abodes - “Tree-like” lifeforms might be detectable even from across the vast spaces that separate us from planets in other solar systems, two scientists propose. 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. See guest editorial.
g Cosmicus - Under just the right conditions - which involve an ultra-high-intensity laser beam and a two-mile-long particle accelerator - it could be possible to create something out of nothing, according to University of Michigan researchers. See article.
g Learning - With so much attention given to one problematic study this week, astrobiology is getting an awful lot of attention–and probably not the sort that astrobiologists would like. If you want to broaden your view of this intriguing area of research, get thee to Itunes! Lynn Rothschild teaches a class on astrobiology at Stanford, and the winter 2010 edition of the course is available for free on Itunes.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Discoveries point to a universe teeming with life and bacteria computers

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 - Earth-like planets aren't the only places to look for life, says science fiction writer Ben Bova. See article.
g Life - Lately, a handful of new discoveries make it seem more likely that we are not alone — that there is life somewhere else in the universe. See article.
g Intelligence - Communication through facial expressions isn’t the domain of humans alone, a study has found: such expressions may foster social harmony among apes and our closer monkey relatives. See article.
g Message - Book alert: In response to Enrico Fermi's famous 1950 question concerning the existence of advanced civilizations elsewhere, physicist Stephen Webb in “If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life” critically examines 50 resolutions to explain the total absence of empirical evidence for probes, starships, and communications from extraterrestrials. He focuses on our Milky Way Galaxy, which to date has yielded no objects or signals that indicate the existence of alien beings with intelligence and technology. His comprehensive analysis covers topics ranging from the Drake equation and Dyson spheres to the panspermia hypothesis and anthropic arguments. Of special interest are the discussions on the DNA molecule, the origin of life on Earth, and the threats to organic evolution on this planet (including mass extinctions). Webb himself concludes that the "great silence" in nature probably results from humankind's being the only civilization now in this galaxy, if not in the entire universe. This richly informative and very engaging book is recommended for most academic and public library science collections. See article.
g Cosmicus - A team of UCSF researchers has engineered E. coli with the key molecular circuitry that will enable genetic engineers to program cells to communicate and perform computations. See article.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Arsenic DNA study called into question and ‘How to Find a Habitable 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 Abodes - Book alert: By the end of 2010, astronomers had compiled a list of 500 exoplanets: extrasolar planets orbiting other stars. Those distant planets are most likely too big, too gaseous, and too hot to support life, but the very fact that we can now discover these distant worlds means it's time to start thinking about just how we might identify habitable planets that may be thousands of light years away. “How to Find a Habitable Planet” by James Kastings offer some suggestions about how to do just that. See review.
g Life - A recent high-profile astrobiology discovery led by a NASA scientist is being called into question by a B.C. microbiologist, who says the science was sloppy. See article.
g Intelligence - A ballet dancer grasps her partner's hand to connect for a pas de deux. Later that night, in the dark, she reaches for her calf to massage a sore spot. Her brain is using different "maps" to plan for each of these movements, according to a new study. See article
g Message - We humans are familiar with the back-and-forth of face-to-face contact — something we likely will not have in an interstellar conversation. The timescale of a human life may well not be enough for a meaningful dialogue with another species. Interstellar dialogue may make sense only across generations. See article. This article is from 2003.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What NASA’s arsenic-life discovery means for finding ET and fifth-graders test Martian drill

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 pair of neutron stars spiraling toward each other until they merge in a violent explosion should produce detectable gravitational waves. A new study predicts for the first time where such mergers are likely to occur in the local galactic neighborhood. See article.
g Abodes - New research shows that temperature has a greater effect on the rate of some chemical reactions than previously thought. The study indicates that certain reactions necessary for life could have happened faster on a warm Earth, reducing the time necessary for evolution to occur. See article.
g Life - PlanRad talks with NASA Astrobiology Program Director Mary Voytek about last week's announcement about the first lifeform that substitutes arsenic for phosphorous to support many basic life functions. The discovery has much to say about the search for extraterrestrial life. See article.
g Intelligence - Over the next year, spiders watching videos of their prey are going to help biologists understand how animals choose which visual elements to attend to in their environments. She believes we are on the verge of gaining important new knowledge about how brains and specialized sensory systems work together to process visual information. See article.
g Message - What are the chances that an alien signal has been sent our way just at the right moment to splash upon our antennas during that brief interval? If the extraterrestrials beam their broadcasts to the whole galaxy (or at least a big chunk of it), the chances are 100 percent. See article. This article is from 2006.
g Cosmicus - China is shifting its space program into high gear, with recently announced goals to build a manned space station by 2020 and send a spacecraft to Mars by 2013 — all on the heels of its second robotic moon mission this year. See article.
g Learning - NASA’s IceBite project is in Antarctica testing a drill for possible use on a future mission to Mars. In a recent trial of the drill’s remote-operations software, the operators were a bit younger than usual: they were fifth-grade students, controlling the drill from a classroom in Pleasanton, Calif. See article.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Clues about Enceladus’ habitability and how common is life with arsenic in its DNA

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 calculate low mass dark matter particles could be transferring energy from the core to the external parts of the Sun, which would affect the quantity of neutrinos that reach Earth. See article.
g Abodes - NASA's Cassini spacecraft has caught a view of active fissures through the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The web of warm fractures is more complicated than previously thought, and could provide clues about the potential for habitable environments beneath the moon's surface. See article.
g Life - The discovery of a microbe that thrives on arsenic won't force scientists to rewrite entire biology textbooks, but some paragraphs will definitely need to be revised, experts say. See article.
g Intelligence - Could the bacteria that we carry in our bodies decide who we marry? According to a new study the answer lies in the gut of a small fruit fly. See article.
g Message - How scientifically accurate was the ultimate astrobiology film, “Contact”? See article.
g Cosmicus - IBM scientists have unveiled a new chip technology that integrates electrical and optical devices on the same piece of silicon, enabling computer chips to communicate using pulses of light (instead of electrical signals), resulting in smaller, faster and more power-efficient chips than is possible with conventional technologies. See article.
g Imagining - How common might extraterrestrial life utilizing arsenic rather phosphorous in its nucleic acids be? See article.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Martian rock likely not a sign of life and living clouds

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 - What some argue is evidence of ancient life in a meteorite from Mars could have a simple chemical explanation, scientists now suggest. See article.
g Life - Microbiologists report that they have discovered a new cooperative behavior in anaerobic bacteria, known as interspecies electron transfer, that could have important implications for the global carbon cycle and bioenergy. See article.
g Intelligence - Researchers have deciphered the structure and functional mechanism of the glucansucrase enzyme that is responsible for dental plaque sticking to teeth. This knowledge will stimulate the identification of substances that inhibit the enzyme. Just add that substance to toothpaste, or even sweets, and caries will be a thing of the past. See article.
g Message - One of our natural tendencies when we make contact with strangers is to try to impress them. Sloppy dressers might polish their shoes for a job interview, hopeful suitors will wash their cars for a first date and prospective children-in-law will be on their best behavior in the presence of the parents of their intended. Wouldn’t we want to do the same in our first contact with ET? Lewis Thomas, in his book “Lives of a Cell,” suggests that if we want to impress an alien civilization, we should send "Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again." See article. This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - A rocket built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX performed an engine test Saturday, just days ahead of its planned launch to send a new commercial space capsule on its maiden voyage this week. See article.
g Learning - NASA is holding a "baked-goods" sale for schools, but instead of tasty desserts, the space agency is offering something much hotter: space shuttle heat shield tiles. See article.
g Imagining - The otherwise sane and respected astrobiologist David Grinspoon has been considering that under the right circumstances, clouds could become living things. With intelligence, even. See article.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Number of universe’s stars in triples and profound biological discovery

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 new study suggests that a specific kind of galaxy might hold 10 times more red dwarf stars than estimated. That would triple projections for the number of stars in the observable universe, with implications for explanations of how stars and galaxies form and evolve. See article.
g Abodes - Our sun may have a companion that disturbs comets from the edge of the solar system — a giant planet with up to four times the mass of Jupiter, researchers suggest. See article
g Life - On Thursday, NASA announced in a much-hyped press conference that scientists in California had identified a life form on earth that can use arsenic, rather than phosphorus, as part of its basic structure. Nothing like it has ever been discovered, and it had been widely assumed that the same six elements, of which phosphorus is one, were a precondition for life on earth. But life, it turns out, can get very creative. Though the announcement disappointed astrobiology aficionados hoping for the first hard evidence of extraterrestrial life, it nevertheless rewrites the rule book defining how life can exist. See editorial.
g Cosmicus - After seven months in space, the U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B unmanned space plane returned to Earth today to wrap up a debut flight shrouded in secrecy. See article.
g Learning - Could Star Trek’s Caretaker of The Original Series’ “Shore Leave” fame actually evolve? Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about his race with the exception that it is very advanced technologically and quite disciplined mentally. We also know that it appears human, which virtually eliminates it from the realm of possibility, as the parallel evolution on another planet of homo sapiens is extremely unlikely. However, the Caretaker’s kind may not be humanoid at all. Indeed, his race employs machinery that can nearly instantaneously create items based on the readings of one’s thoughts. It’s similar to what the Squire of Gothos and The Next Generation’s Q can do. However, the squire and the Q can achieve this instantaneously, the squire through a machine and the Q through an omnipotent understanding of the universe. Both the squire and the Q also are energy beings. Might the caretaker as well be one (though of a different race than the squire or the Q) and merely took on human form for the landing party’s sake?

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Arsenic substitute in DNA and exoworld’s atmosphere analyzed

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 galaxy thought to be over the hill is apparently still hard at work creating baby stars, a new study finds. See article.
g Abodes - The first-ever analysis of the atmosphere of an alien planet classified as a so-called "super-Earth" has revealed a distant world that is likely covered with either water vapor or a thick haze. See article.
g Life - Geomicrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon has discovered a bacterium that appears able to use arsenic instead of phosphorus in its DNA. The definition of life on Earth may need to be rewritten. See article.
g Cosmicus - Nestled on a barren bluff on the southern shore of Kodiak Island - Alaska's emerald isle - a state-owned launch complex is vying to draw space business to America's last frontier. See article.
g Learning - Looking for a club to join? Try The SETI League. The league’s site has a lot of great information for everyone from the beginner to accomplished technogeek.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sulfur in atmospheres and could Talosians exist?

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 an oddly bent galaxy that may help shed new light on how the most massive structures in the universe form and evolve. See article.
g Abodes - New information about a high-altitude layer of sulphur dioxide on Venus could be a warning against injecting Earth's atmosphere with sulfur droplets to mitigate climate change. See article.
g Imagining - Star Trek’s very first alien, the Talosians, pose quite an evolutionary challenge: Their heads are oversized because of large, powerful brains capable of telepathy and even mind control of others. First off, a brain of that size must demand a lot of energy. This is somewhat addressed through the large arteries and veins apparent on their bald heads; their frail bodies also indicate fewer cells below the neckline for oxygen-carrying blood to support. But they probably also need greater lung capacity to cycle more oxygen into their bodies as well as a larger heart for pumping that oxygen-laden blood to and through the brain. Their bodies don’t indicate larger lungs, however. Another problem with their head/brain size is giving birth. The enormity of the head is limited by the size and shape of the pelvis — and their human shape and gait indicates they couldn’t give birth to an infant with a head any larger than ours. A possibility is that their the brain primarily develops outside of the womb; perhaps they grow in their telepathic powers as they age. Another possibility: They are not born naturally but artificially created, indicating a separation from among the most basic instincts – mating. The Talosians, after all, are fairly unimaginative creatures, dependent upon probing the minds of others for new experiences! As for their telepathic and power of illusion capabilities, we’ll just have to presume that somehow their brain lobes have evolved sections capable of connecting and interacting across the medium of air with another creature’s neurons. See article.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Caution when answering ETI and private spaceflights in one year

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 - Some of the universe's most massive galaxies may have formed billions of years earlier than current scientific models predict, according to surprising new research. See article.
g Life - A small cactus is teaching scientists about a unique evolutionary mechanisms that plants can use to thrive in harsh environments. The study provides insight into the adaptability of life, and could help astrobiologists understand how some ecosystems might react to global warming. See article.
g Cosmicus - Virgin Galactic's new commercial spaceship could be flying its first passengers — company founder Sir Richard Branson and his family — in about a year, Branson said Nov. 30 on NBC's "Today" show. See article.
g Aftermath - From the oldie but goodie files: If E.T. phones home, will it be safe to answer? See article. This article is from 1996.

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