Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Looking for aliens in all the exotic places and convergent evolution in lichens

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 phenomenon known as “magnetic reconnection” is responsible for much of the space weather that affects Earth. NASA is now preparing a new mission dedicated to studying this dynamic magnetic system and its influence on our planet. See article.
g Life - New research has outlined a case of convergent evolution in two lichen species from separate continents. The study is helping scientists understand mechanisms behind the evolution of life. See article.
g Intelligence - The human eye long ago solved a problem common to both digital and film cameras: how to get good contrast in an image while also capturing faint detail. See article.
g Message - The sad shut down of SETI due to lack of funding brings a major halt to the search for aliens, unplugging the voice and ears which have been doing the search until now. But perhaps we should start thinking outside the box, and start looking for aliens in more exotic places. See article.
g Learning - NASA has made available for the public a new online collection of images of our solar system and locations on Earth where astrobiology researchers travel to conduct field research.

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1 comment:

Martin J Sallberg said...

With that discovery of convergent evolution in lichens, it is time to realize that it really is adaptation that shapes life. The belief in the significance of single random mutations is just due to two confusions Stephen Jay Gould perpetrated: with his term "punctuated equilibrium" he confused accelerated selectionist evolution with single macromutation, and he ignored the fact that when multiple species compete over a new niche the best preadapted seizes it, so he also confused the significance of randomness in single lineages with what lineage seizes a certain niche. The kind of "punctuated equilibrium" that is due to environmental change is actually gradual selectionism, just on a accelerated timescale, and much closer to phyletic gradualism than to macromutation. And for the effect of different lineages claiming niches, there is a strong statistical link between the size of the isolate and the prevalence of convergent evolution (convergent evolution is common on isolated continents but rare on small isles) most likely because larger isolates contain more lineages that can compete for the niches, canceling out randomness on the large scale. I predict that when alien life is discovered, much of it will resemble life in similar niches and environments on other worlds, and that the smaller the world the more vestigial organs the inhabitants have (on average).