Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SETI puts ET on hold and ‘First Contact’ author discusses his book

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 first stars in the universe may have been extraordinarily fast spinners, whirling at more than a million miles per hour, scientists say. See article.
g Abodes - By studying life in the scalding hot springs of a volcanic crater in Siberia, a team of scientists has discovered bacteria that produce and consume carbon monoxide. The findings could provide new insight into the evolution of Earth's early atmosphere. See article.
g Life - New research shows that water molecules could actually influence the structure of DNA. The finding could provide clues about how DNA originated, and how it functions in modern cells. See article
g Intelligence - When deprived of sleep, parts of the human brain may doze off, secretly snatching moments of slumber even as people seem to be awake. See article.
g Message - Budget cuts have forced the SETI Institute in California to shut down its famous search for extraterrestrial life, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The institute can no longer afford to operate its Allen Telescope Array, which has been scanning outer space for sign of communication since 2007. As a result, it's been in what the institute calls "hibernation" since April 15. See article.
g Cosmicus - As the 10th anniversary of American businessman Dennis Tito’s groundbreaking flight nears, caught up with the space pioneer to chat about his experience - and the prospects for private spaceflight going forward. See interview.
g Learning - Marc Kaufman, author of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth talks about his book in today’s Washington Post.
g Imagining - A short entry today on the early “Star Trek” alien Balok: Creatively speaking, this alien was a disappointment compared to the previously presented Alfa 117 canine and salt vampire. Balok only possesses two real visual differences from humans: He’s shorter and possesses more child-like features (teeth and facial). As to the first trait, of height, Balok may come from a planet with heavier gravity than Earth. Or perhaps there was shorter grass on the savanna (his hominid frame indicates a primate-styled path to intelligence), so height actually may be an evolutionary disadvantage on his world. Possibly his planet is slightly cooler, as that would encourage stockier traits, though the shapes of his nostrils don’t indicate his kind regularly breathes cold air, nor does the Enterprise crew note or physically show that they’re on a cold ship. As to the second trait, of child-like features, presumably it holds some evolutionary advantage (after all, adults even in smaller mammals appear much more angular in their faces than their infants), though not enough hints were provided to offer speculation. Any ideas out there?
g Aftermath - Could Martian research samples carry diseases? Certainly this is an issue for the first time we make contact with extraterrestrial life, whether it is intelligent or microbial. See article.

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