Friday, February 25, 2011

Looking for ‘ET’ in Mideast and end of dark matter?

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 - Dark matter is our best explanation for why galaxies stay together when they don't seem massive enough to keep up gravitational attraction. But now a largely-dismissed alternative theory has some actual proof backing it up. See article.
g Abodes - For the first time in the Middle East region a joint team of leading NASA and Emirati scientists have embarked on an astrobiological study of extreme desert environments. See article.
g Life - New research sheds light on how microorganisms are able to “hibernate” for long periods of time. This unique ability of microorganisms affects entire ecosystems on Earth, and could have implications for the transport of organisms between planets. See article.
g Intelligence - It may seem paradoxical, but being part of a crowd is what makes you unique, according to life scientists. See article.
g Message - Book alert: Despite an evidently open-minded attitude, Barry Parker delivers the hard line to ET enthusiasts in “Alien Life: The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond": "Strangely, we haven't found a single sign of life beyond our solar system." The emeritus Idaho State University professor of astronomy and physics summarizes recent scientific conjecture on extraterrestrial life without venturing much personal speculation. He considers the "architecture of life" and the mystery of DNA as related to its possible exploitation elsewhere; the possibility of non-carbon-based life forms; the history of Mars exploration (including the recent "meteorite from Mars" discovery); the results of NASA space probes; the discovery of distant planets through advanced telescopy; and the SETI program's search for alien radio signals. Parker acknowledges the contentions of UFO believers, but devotes few pages to claims of alien encounters such as the well-known Roswell incident. Steering clear of that controversy as "an argument not likely to be resolved in the near future," Parker's hopeful and energetic book ends up reinforcing the science establishment's lonely outlook for humanity, but still leaves room for the possibility that if they are out there, we will find them, or they, us. See article.
g Cosmicus - Life aboard the International Space Station will get a little cushier when a robot butler arrives at the orbiting lab later this week. See article.
g Learning - With goals so enormous and compelling, astrobiology has brought forth a new generation of outside-the-box researchers, field scientists, adventurers and thinkers -- part Carl Sagan, part Indiana Jones, part Watson and Crick, part "CSI: Mars." They are men and women who drop deep below the surface of Earth or tunnel into Antarctic glaciers in search of life in the most extreme places, who probe volcanoes for clues into how Earthly life began, who propel life-detecting robots into deep space and who will ultimately send colleagues to other planets. These explorers come up with ever more ingenious methods for detecting planets that circle distant suns; they scour our planet for Mars-like habitats they can minutely study for the life-supporting conditions astronauts might encounter when our spaceships arrive there. They probe the cosmos as far as 13 billion light-years away for signs of the earliest stirrings of the order and chemistry that created life on Earth. Some are even working to define and understand "life" by creating it in the lab. See article.

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