Monday, February 28, 2011

Alternative chemistries for life and estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization

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 - Massive waves in giant magnetic holes on the surface of the Sun have been discovered for the first time by solar scientists, something that will bring experts a step closer to unlocking the secrets of the Sun. See article.
g Abodes - Geophysicists are offering a new explanation for seismic tremors accompanying volcanic eruptions that could advance forecasting of explosive eruptions such as recent events at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, Chaiten Volcano in Chile, and Mount St. Helens in Washington state. See article.
g Life - The claim of a microbe that swaps arsenic for phosphorus may be questionable, but alternative chemistries for life is still a question worth considering, say researchers. See article.
g Message - Estimating the frequency for communicating with an extrasolar civilization is a multi-dimensional challenge. The answer, according to two scientists at the Hungarian Astronomical Association, is less like an equation, and more like a matrix. See article.
g Cosmicus - The roster of competitors is set for the Google Lunar X Prize, a multimillion-dollar race to land a homemade robot on the moon. See article.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Earth’s oldest water and ethics of contacting alien 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 - Stars are balls of glowing gas, with a nearly spherical shape. Accordingly, one would expect that when some stars explode as supernovae at the end of their lives, the resulting colossal fireballs should share this spherical symmetry. However, recent investigations are revealing that some of these events are not round. New data gathered at Calar Alto Observatory reinforce this surprising finding. See article.
g Abodes - New evidence shows that saline groundwaters in South Africa may be the oldest known water on Earth. Fractures in rocks in the Witwatersrand Basin that are filled with this water also support the deepest known microbial ecosystem on Earth. See article.
g Life - Scientists have identified a pheromone produced by female squid that triggers immediate and dramatic fighting in male squid that come into contact with it. The aggression-producing pheromone, believed to be the first of its kind discovered in any marine animal, belongs to a family of proteins found in vertebrates, including humans. See article.
g Intelligence - The Stripe of Gennari develops even in those who are blind from birth and does not degenerate, despite a lack of visual input, in a new discovery. This bundle of nerve fibers, which is approximately 0.3 mm thick, is not exclusively responsible for optic information. See article.
g Message - Is it even ethical for us to contact alien life. See article.
g Cosmicus - A new Mercury probe has survived a scorching test run in a giant oven, showing that the craft can withstand the hellish heat near the solar system's innermost planet. See article.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Arguing for Gliese 581g and that large radio telescope in ‘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 Stars - Recent data for gas rich galaxies precisely match predictions of a modified theory of gravity known as MOND, according to a new analysis. This - the latest of several successful MOND predictions - raises new questions about accuracy of the reigning cosmological model of the universe. See article.
g Abodes - Even as some astronomers start shoveling dirt on the much-heralded "first potentially habitable" alien world – a planet called Gliese 581g – its co-discoverer is vigorously defending the find. See article.
g Life - New research sheds light on how fleas jump, reaching speeds as fast as 1.9 meters per second. See article.
g Message - Here’s a neat Web site about Arecibo Observatory , the large radio telescope located in Puerto Rico that was featured in the film "Contact”.
g Cosmicus - As it awaits congressional action on its 2011 budget, NASA is proceeding with plans to award roughly $200 million to companies developing technologies in support of the agency’s commercial space transportation goals. See article.

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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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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Moon’s mineral water and where are all the 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 Stars - NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered the first direct evidence for a superfluid, a bizarre, friction-free state of matter, at the core of a neutron star. Superfluids created in laboratories on Earth exhibit remarkable properties, such as the ability to climb upward and escape airtight containers. The finding has important implications for understanding nuclear interactions in matter at the highest known densities. See article.
g Abodes - Bring a filter if you plan on drinking water from the Moon. Water ice recently discovered in dust at the bottom of a crater near the Moon's South Pole is accompanied by metallic elements like mercury, magnesium, calcium, and even a bit of silver. Now you can add sodium to the mix. See article.
g Life - A parasite and a virus may be teaming up in a way that increases the parasite's ability to harm humans, scientists say. See article.
g Intelligence - The portion of the brain responsible for visual reading doesn't require vision at all, according to a new study published online on Feb. 17 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. Brain imaging studies of blind people as they read words in Braille show activity in precisely the same part of the brain that lights up when sighted readers read. The findings challenge the textbook notion that the brain is divided up into regions that are specialized for processing information coming in via one sense or another, the researchers say. 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 - You need to keep your thoughts from wandering, if you drive using the new technology from the AutoNOMOS innovation labs of Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin. The computer scientists have developed a system making it possible to steer a car with your thoughts. Using new commercially available sensors to measure brain waves - sensors for recording electroencephalograms - the scientists were able to distinguish the bioelectrical wave patterns for control commands such as "left," "right," "accelerate" or "brake" in a test subject. See article.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Biological Big Bang and labs focus on antimatter

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 - Special cameras on the IBEX spacecraft have snapped their first pictures of the complex interactions between space weather and Earth's magnetic field. The new data could help astrobiologists understand the links between the space environment and Earth's habitability. See article.
g Life - Life on Earth came from other planets, and has a genetic ancestry leading backwards in time over 10 billion years - so proclaims a revolutionary, paradigm busting text, “The Biological Big Bang”, edited by famed astrobiologist and astrophysicist Chandra Wickramasinghe. Chandra, along with his colleague astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, are often cited as the "fathers" of the field known today as "astrobiology." See article.
g Message - I’ve finally found online the classic paper published in Nature that initiated in 1959 the age of Electromagnetic SETI: “Searching for Interstellar Communications,” by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison. See article.
g Cosmicus - Once regarded as the stuff of science fiction, antimatter - the mirror image of the ordinary matter in our observable universe - is now the focus of laboratory studies around the world. See article.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tyche probably not out there and ‘Strangers in the Night: Brief History of Life on Other Worlds’

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 duo of planetary astronomers has grabbed media attention by claiming a planet four times the size of Jupiter may be lurking in the outer solar system. They call the planet Tyche. Many astronomers, however, say it probably isn't there. See article.
g Life - Researchers have uncovered the unique survival mechanisms of a marine organism that may be tiny but in some ways has surpassed sharks in its predatory efficiency. See article.
g Message - Book alert: The father-son team of David E. Fisher and Marshall Jon Fisher brings the study of extraterrestrial life down to earth in “Strangers in the Night: Brief History of Life on Other Worlds,” an informative and entertaining book. In the anecdotal style that is their hallmark, the Fishers trace humankind’s attempts to discover life on other worlds. See article.
g Cosmicus - More than 50 years after the invention of the laser, scientists have built the world's first anti-laser, in which incoming beams of light interfere with one another in such a way as to perfectly cancel each other out. The discovery could pave the way for a number of novel technologies with applications in everything from optical computing to radiology. See article.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

New deep sea vents discovered and looking locally for ETI technologies

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 - Using the super-sharp radio "vision" of astronomy's most precise telescope, scientists have extended a directly-measured "yardstick" three times farther into the cosmos than ever before, an achievement with important implications for numerous areas of astrophysics, including determining the nature of Dark Energy, which constitutes 70 percent of the universe. The continent-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) also is redrawing the map of our home galaxy and is poised to yield tantalizing new information about extrasolar planets, among many other cutting-edge research projects. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists aboard the Royal Research Ship “James Cook” have discovered a new set of deep-sea volcanic vents in the chilly waters of the southern ocean. The discovery is the fourth made by the research team in three years, which suggests that deep-sea vents may be more common in our oceans than previously thought. See article.
g Life - Research published in the latest issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology illustrates a complex series of changes that occur in grizzly bears' hearts as they hibernate. The changes guard against complications that could arise from greatly reduced activity. See article.
g Message - Humanity might want to consider searching for extraterrestrial technologies within our solar system. See article. This article is from 2002.
g Cosmicus - Apollo 14 not only brought astronauts to the moon, but also a collection of seeds. Astrobiologists were not sure if the seeds would germinate after orbiting the Moon 34 times, but they did. “Moon trees” have been planted across the U.S. and one researcher is now trying to locate them all. See article.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two planets found around young stars and unconfirmed signal

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 directly imaged two young stars that reveal host planets may have formed from their disks. The finding will help scientists understand planet formation, an essential step in determining where to search for habitable, Earth-like worlds. See article.
g Abodes - NASA's Stardust spacecraft returned new images of a comet showing a scar resulting from the 2005 Deep Impact mission. The images also showed the comet has a fragile and weak nucleus. See article.
g Life - Scientists have discovered that organisms evolved to use chitin as a structural component of their bodies much earlier than previously thought. The study included astrobiologists, and can help us understand the history and evolution of life on Earth. See article.
g Intelligence - Neurons are complicated, but the basic functional concept is that synapses transmit electrical signals to the dendrites and cell body (input), and axons carry signals away (output). In one of many surprise findings, scientists have discovered that axons can operate in reverse: they can send signals to the cell body, too. See article.
g Message - In August 1977, a sky survey conducted with Ohio State University's "Big Ear" radio telescope found what has become known as the “Wow” signal. Registering enormous signal strength, the shape of the signal had the characteristic rise and fall expected for its short 72-second lifetime. But a hitch remains: The signal has not been retrieved from other sky surveys, making it more anomaly than confirmable cosmic source. See article. This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument has been carefully installed on NASA's next Mars rover. SAM is part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is scheduled to launch in November of 2011, and will search for organic molecules on the surface of Mars. See article.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Training doctors to treat extraterrestrials and why Mars is small

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 stunning new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope shows newborn stars studding a galaxy like bright blue jewels. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists studying planet formation have long been trying to determine why Mars is so small. A new model may help solve the mystery. The study could alter ideas about the early solar system and change our understanding of how small, rocky planets form and evolve. See article.
g Life - A novel X-ray imaging technology is helping scientists better understand how in the course of evolution snakes have lost their legs. The researchers hope the new data will help resolve a heated debate about the origin of snakes: whether they evolved from a terrestrial lizard or from one that lived in the oceans. New, detailed 3-D images reveal that the internal architecture of an ancient snake's leg bones strongly resembles that of modern terrestrial lizard legs. See article.
g Cosmicus - The Obama Administration just announced its budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year: The total budget is $3.73 trillion, and $18.7 billion of that will go to funding NASA. But how much are you, personally, contributing to space exploration? See article.
g Imagining - Science fiction authors produce a lot of very strange critters. In the desperate dash to be different, many go way overboard to invent fantastic, outlandish species unlike anything anyone has ever seen. It’s an admirable expression of their artistic abilities, but there’s an inherent problem: they almost always lose the reader along the way. Sure, it sounds ultra-cool to have a whole herd of 80-foot quasi-limbed orb-stasis beings, but unless you draw a picture of these things, the reader often has no idea what you’re talking about. However, if you write that your alien has four wings, 10 eyes and looks a little like a kangaroo, the reader is right there with you. Most readers need at least something familiar to draw on for their imagination, or they get lost. See article.
g Aftermath - The Hull York Medical School in England last year was been selected to pilot a new course for trainee doctors: diagnosing and treating disease in extraterrestrial life forms. See article.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Beaming Web sites at aliens and 16,000 planets in the habitable zone

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 - Creating stars is a lot like cooking: You need the right ingredients in the proper proportions to make everything shine. One of those ingredients is dark matter, and a new study has pinpointed the lower limit of this elusive substance needed to ignite a frenzy of star formation: a mass equal to 300 billion of our suns. See article.
g Abodes - The Kepler orbiter scans only a small arc, just one-400th of the sky. If it could survey the total sphere, it presumably would have found more than 400,000 planets, with perhaps 16,000 in the Goldilocks zone, NASA leaders said. See editorial.
g Life - Astrobiologists working with oncologists have suggested that cancer resembles ancient forms of life that flourished between 600 million and 1 billion years ago. See article.
g Intelligence - In the upcoming issue of the journal Nature, anthropologists question the claims that several prominent fossil discoveries made in the last decade are our human ancestors and instead offer a more nuanced explanation of the fossils' place in the Tree of Life. They conclude that instead of being our ancestors the fossils more likely belong to extinct distant cousins. See article.
g Message - Aliens will be glad to know that if ever they need to find an apartment here on Earth, someone has got them covered. In 2005, a company called Deep Space Communications Network beamed the first commercial transmission of a Web site into space. See article.
g Cosmicus - Spacecraft that can make their own decisions, have desires and reason like human beings are being developed by British scientists and the European Space Agency. See article.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stars threatening our solar system and experiment in speculative evolution

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 - Astronomical detectives have assembled a stellar lineup, identifying a handful of nearby stars that may come close enough to disturb our solar system in the next billion years or so. See article.
g Abodes - The Moon, Earth's closest neighbor, has long been studied to help us better understand our own planet. Of particular interest is the lunar interior, which could hold clues to its ancient origins. In an attempt to extract information on the very deep interior of the Moon, a team of NASA-led researchers applied new technology to old data. Apollo seismic data was reanalyzed using modern methodologies and detected what many scientists have predicted: the Moon has a core. See article.
g Life - Things are not always what they seem when it comes to fish - something scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and the Ocean Science Foundation are finding out. Using modern genetic analysis, combined with traditional examination of morphology, the scientists discovered that what were once thought to be three species of blenny in the genus Starksia are actually 10 distinct species. See article.
g Message - How scientifically accurate was the ultimate astrobiology film, “Contact”? See article.
g Cosmicus - Electric cars have been around since the 19th century, so they're not exactly space-age technology. But the recent surge in electric vehicles springs, at least in part, from NASA know-how. See article.
g Imagining - Here’s an intriguing experiment in speculative evolution: The Xenobiology of Nereus.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Switching SETI strategy and biology of the Time Lords

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 study indicates that temperatures may rise more than projected if society keeps emitting greenhouse gasses. The study is based on data concerning climate change during Earth's deep past. See article.
g Life - For the first time, scientists have shown that specific changes in cell membrane voltage and ion flow are a key determinant in whether an organism regenerates a head or a tail. Biologists were able to control the shape of tissue regenerated by amputated planarian (flatworm) segments by manipulating the natural electrical signals that determine head-tail identity in the worms. See article.
g Intelligence - That human evolution follows a progressive trajectory is one of the most deeply-entrenched assumptions about our species. This assumption is often expressed in popular media by showing cavemen speaking in grunts and monosyllables (the Geico Cavemen being a notable exception). But is this assumption correct? Were the earliest humans significantly different from us? See article.
g Message - Here’s why the world's biggest search should reverse its strategy — and why the first signal we hear will probably come from an extremely powerful civilization extremely far away. See article.
g Cosmicus - Astronauts sent to colonize Mars would be well advised to avoid getting pregnant en route to the Red Planet, according to a review of radiation hazards by three scientists. See article.
g Imagining - Could the Time Lords, an alien species of “Doctor Who” fame, actually exist? If so, what would be their physiology? See article.
g Aftermath - The statement that extraterrestrial intelligence exists or doesn’t can have the parallel statement that God exists or doesn’t. Some people say there’s already sufficient evidence of existence for both. If you set aside abductions and miracles, it’s true that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence for either. However, if and when humanity ever detects evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence, it will break the symmetry of these two statements and, in fact, that evidence will be inconsistent with the existence of God or at least organized religions. See article. This article is from 2004.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LOFAR could discover ETI and the mosaic of 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 Abodes - New Hubble photos show auroras – flares of ultraviolet light – streaming from the planet Jupiter. See article.
g Life - Since the days of Darwin, the "tree of life" has been the preeminent metaphor for the process of evolution, reflecting the gradual branching and changing of individual species. The discovery that a large cluster of genes appears to have jumped directly from one species of fungus to another, however, significantly strengthens the argument that a different metaphor, such as a mosaic, may be more appropriate. See article.
g Intelligence - Most of us have done it, and will do it many more times in our lifetimes: It’s kissing. Sheril Kirshenbaum, a research scientist at the University of Texas, decided to take the kiss and put it under a microscope, in a way. She wanted to take the universal act and examine it from various scientific angles. The result of her research is her new book, “The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling”. See article.
g Message - In the opinion of astronomers, the massive new LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescope, which is partly run by the University of Kent, could facilitate the discovery of alien life. See article.
g Cosmicus - Quote of the Day: "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." - Thomas Jefferson

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Corporate bankrolling of Mars mission and Arecibo Observatory’s search of artificial radio signals

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 - Ecology drives evolution. An article in the Jan 28 issue of the journal Science describes growing evidence that the reverse is also true, and explores what that might mean to our understanding of how environmental change affects species and vice-versa. See article.
g Life - Researchers have discovered the 100 million-year-old ancestor of a group of large, carnivorous, cricket-like insects that still live today in southern Asia, northern Indochina and Africa. The new find, in a limestone fossil bed in northeastern Brazil, corrects the mistaken classification of another fossil of this type and reveals that the genus has undergone very little evolutionary change since the Early Cretaceous Period, a time of dinosaurs just before the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. See article.
g Intelligence - A fossilized foot bone recovered from Hadar, Ethiopia, shows that by 3.2 million years ago human ancestors walked bipedally with a modern human-like foot, a report that appears Feb. 11 in the journal Science, concludes. See article.
g Message - Here’s a prerecorded Webcast at Aricebo Radio Observatory in March 2003 when scientists listened to the most promising transmissions from UC Berkeley’s SETI@home search. Join the Exploratorium’s Ron Hipschman and special guest Dan Werthimer, chief scientist and principal investigator for the SETI Institute’s efforts, as they also discuss Arecibo Observatory’s search of artificial radio signals coming from other stars; scroll to “What about Intelligent Life?”
g Cosmicus - NASA scientists and others think business corporations could bankroll a human mission to Mars. This raises the prospect that a spaceship named the Microsoft Explorer or the Google Search Engine could go down in history as the first spaceship to bring humans to the red planet. See article.
g Learning - Could the beauty of the universe attract children to science? See article.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ecosystem engineers and optimism for finding 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 - New research shows that an optic effect called “strong gravitational lensing” is distorting the number and shape of the Universe's most distant galaxies. The study could have implications for astrobiologists who are studying the nature of galactic environments in the Universe and the possible locations in which to search for habitable worlds. See article.
g Abodes - A chronology of 1,000 years of earthquakes at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault nixes the idea that lake changes in the now-dry region caused past quakes. However, researchers say, the timeline pulled from sediment in three deep trenches confirms that this portion of the fault is long past the expected time for a major temblor that would strongly shake the Los Angeles Basin. See article.
g Life - Researchers have revealed that ants have a big impact on their local environment as a result of their activity as “ecosystem engineers” and predators. See article.
g Intelligence - A new study has found that an administration of testosterone under the tongue in volunteers negatively affects a person's ability to “mind read,” an indication of empathy. See article.
g Message - "Surely one of the most marvelous feats of 20th-century science would be the firm proof that life exists on another planet. In that case, the thesis that life develops spontaneously when the conditions are favorable would be far more firmly established, and our whole view of the problem of the origin of life would be confirmed." Stanley Miller and Harold Urey wrote in 1959. Unfortunately, their dream has not been realized, and as we begin this new millennium the question of whether life exists beyond the Earth remains unanswered. However, there are reasons for optimism that in the not-too-distant future we may have an answer. See article. Note: This article is from 2001.
g Cosmicus - NASA can't survive without strong partnerships with private space companies, says the space agency's chief, Charles Bolden. See article.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

What discovery of potential habitable planets means and Mars500 mission ‘lands’

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 a trove of potential alien planets, including dozens that could be Earth-size or habitable, is heartening news for those hoping to discover E.T. one day. See article.
g Life - Daphnia pulex is receiving an enormous pat on the back from the scientific community: It is the first crustacean to have its complete genome sequenced. See article.
g Intelligence - Think you're overloaded with information? Not even close. Now a new study calculates the world's total technological capacity - how much information humankind is able to store, communicate and compute. See article.
g Message - Several big hunts are seeking radio and laser emissions from other civilizations. From Project Phoenix to SETI@home, here's a complete rundown of all the searches now under way or recently conducted. See article.
g Cosmicus - The Mars500 mission has reached its halfway point, with volunteer "astronauts" making a simulated landing on Mars today. The project should help scientists and mission planners better understand — and perhaps mitigate — the psychological and physiological stresses a long space journey would impose on crewmembers, researchers said. See article.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Ramping up commercial space exploration and a SETI classic

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 - Scientists study the links between the Earth's climate and biosphere, but new studies show that climate could also be intimately linked to human culture. This relationship between climate and culture may be apparent throughout human history. See article.
g Life - A new study shows that bacteria evolve new abilities, such as antibiotic resistance, predominantly by acquiring genes from other bacteria. See article.
g Intelligence - A study from The Scripps Research Institute has unveiled a surprising mechanism that controls brain formation. The findings have implications for understanding a host of diseases, including some forms of mental retardation, epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism. See article.
g Message - Here’s a classic I stumbled across online: Carl Sagan’s 1978 article “The Quest for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” Few other pieces so eloquently capture the essential, human purpose behind astrobiology and SETI. See article.
g Cosmicus - The United States needs to ramp up commercial space exploration and scale down NASA's role in flying humans to low-Earth orbit, a conservative organization says. See article.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Debunked alien encounters and biogeochemical cycles of habitable worlds

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 - Rings of gold and precious jewels may be traditional gifts between lovebirds on Valentine's Day, but what about a giant ring of black holes? A stunning image from space reveals just that. See article.
g Abodes - Astrobiologists study Earth's biogeochemical cycles as a reference for understanding what makes an environment habitable. Cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous show how life and the Earth itself are intricately linked. See article.
g Life - A new study takes a close look at the brain of the migratory monarch butterfly to better understand how these remarkable insects use an internal compass and skylight cues to navigate from eastern North America to Mexico each fall. The research, published in the Jan. 27 issue of the journal Neuron, provides key insights into how ambiguous sensory signals can be integrated in the brain to guide complex navigation. See article.
g Intelligence - Mice know fear. And they know to fear the scent of a predator. But how do their brains quickly figure out with a sniff that a cat is nearby? See article.
g Message - Communicating with each other may seem difficult enough, given the eight thousand languages used today, but imagine talking to another species? A model for considering the question is an age-old one: do you think your dog understands what you're saying? See article.
g Cosmicus - A new way of splitting layered materials, similar to graphite, into sheets of material just one atom thick could lead to revolutionary new electronic and energy storage technologies. See article.
g Imagining - Here are 10 alleged alien encounters — those brushes with aliens (or supposed aliens) that have been definitively debunked over the years. See article.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Exploring Jupiter’s icy moons and relating to an 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 - Thin, wispy clouds of ice particles, similar to Earth's cirrus clouds, are being reported in Titan’s atmosphere. See article.
g Life - Researchers have determined that a fossilized dinosaur bone found in New Mexico confounds the long established paradigm that the age of dinosaurs ended between 65.5 million and 66 million years ago. See article.
g Intelligence - Like listeners adjusting a high-tech radio, scientists have tuned in to precise frequencies of brain activity to unleash new insights into how the brain works. See article.
g Cosmicus - American and European scientists are firming up the details of an ambitious joint mission to Jupiter to explore oceans on the giant planet's icy moons. See article.
g Aftermath - Could humanity ever relate to an alien species? Consider the questioning context of these online speculations about why "Star Trek is human centered?" The latter is an interesting question, possibly creating a situation dealing with a prejudice on the behalf of the writers and producers. However, would a series completely dedicated to another species, such as the Romulans, be successful in a television market? Is it possible that the reasons it wouldn’t be might indicate humanity may care little about an alien species other than as a potential threat? See article. This article is from 1999.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Possible target stars for Project Icarus and more evidence for flowing water 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 - In the first of a series of 20 articles detailing different aspects of the Project Icarus interstellar spacecraft, Ian Crawford, Reader in Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Lead Designer for the Icarus "Astronomical Target" module, will detail possible nearby star systems the hundred year mission could target. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists have discovered new evidence that water once flowed near the surface of Mars by examining rare Martian meteorites. The information could help astrobiologists understand whether or not Mars was once habitable for life as we know it. See article.
g Life - New research provides the first detailed genetic picture of an evolutionary war between Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and the vaccines and antibiotics used against it over recent decades. Large-scale genome sequencing reveals patterns of adaptation and the spread of a drug-resistant lineage of the S. pneumoniae bacteria. See article.
g Message - If we are not alone in the universe, why have we never picked up signals from an extraterrestrial civilization? Known as the Fermi paradox after physicist Enrico Fermi, who first posed the question, this long-standing puzzle remains one of the strongest arguments against the existence of intelligent aliens. But two physicists say they have come up with a solution. They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background noise. See article. This article is from 2003.
g Cosmicus - NASA's focus on the value of innovative commercial space firms took center stage in back-to-back meetings with a private space station module builder and a company developing a new space plane to fly passengers to and from Earth orbit. See article.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Finding alien space artifacts and Mars’ shifting sand dunes

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 were not as solitary as previously thought. In fact, they could have formed alongside numerous companions when the gas disks that surrounded them broke up during formation, giving birth to sibling stars in the fragments. See article.
g Abodes - Dunes in the north of Mars are not frozen in time as some have thought — conversely, their sands can shift both slowly and quickly, scientists have found. See article.
g Life - Alien life might be hard to find for the simple reason that it is fundamentally unlike Earth life. It might not use DNA, or contain protein. But whatever and wherever it is, its tendency to chemically alter its environment might just give it away. See article.
g Message - Just as our own robots reach out beyond the solar system, searching for life elsewhere may well involve hailing some kind of space artifact in our own neighborhood. At least one style of life search is about looking for the technological evidence of life, rather than its wet biology. See article. This article is from 2004.
g Cosmicus - Engineers have found a way to grow nanolasers directly onto a silicon surface, an achievement that could lead to a new class of faster, more efficient microprocessors, as well as to powerful biochemical sensors that use optoelectronic chips. See article.
g Learning - When does asking the right questions tell more than necessarily knowing the right answers? Perhaps when crossing the fertile boundary between biology and astronomy. See article.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sending messages into space and unusual cloud surrounds giant dust

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 giant star nearing its death is surrounded by an unusual cloud of gas and dust that is generally only found around baby stars, as revealed by a new 3-D imaging technique. See article.
g Abodes - The frightful moon Phobos is hiding fewer secrets after a recent close flyby from the European spacecraft Mars Express. See article.
g Life - New research shows that the methods organisms use to deal with mistakes made when their genetic code is interpreted greatly influences their ability to evolve. The findings are useful for astrobiologists who are studying cellular mechanisms that control and limit the evolution of life. See article.
g Intelligence - Are we on the verge of being able to stimulate the brain to see the world anew - an electric thinking cap? Research suggests that this could be the case. See article.
g Message - In 2003, a Ukrainian space center sent several messages across the cosmos hoping to reach extraterrestrials 30-40 light years away. See article. This article is from 2003.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Radical cultural shift following first contact and the accelerating pace of planet 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 - Astronomers may have found the missing link between gas-filled, star-forming galaxies and older, gas-depleted galaxies typically characterized as "red and dead." See article.
g Abodes - Astronomer Geoff Marcy has had a hand in finding more alien planets than anyone else. He helped spot 70 of the first 100. He also found the first multi-planet system around a sun-like star, and he discovered the first planet that transits — or passes in front of — its star from our perspective on Earth. SPACE.com caught up with Marcy at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society, to chat about the accelerating pace of planet discovery, what we still don't know about alien worlds and whether there might be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. See interview.
g Life - The mechanism that controls the internal 24-hour clock of all forms of life from human cells to algae has been identified by scientists. See article.
g Intelligence - For the first time, researchers report in detail how a chimpanzee mother responds to the death of her infant. The chimpanzee mother shows behaviors not typically seen directed toward live infants, such as placing her fingers against the neck and laying the infant's body on the ground to watch it from a distance. The observations provide unique insights into how chimpanzees, one of humans' closest primate relatives, learn about death. See article.
g Cosmicus - This year, NASA will launch its final Space Shuttle missions. The development of the Shuttle had sprung from the supersonic rocket planes of Chuck Yeager, and was an answer to the question: what is the best way to send man into space? See article.
g Aftermath - Clearly, if we are not alone in the universe, there are some unavoidable theological and philosophical consequences. We feel that the problem of extraterrestrial life is one of the most important questions raised in science to the present. We should reflect on the consequences of a positive result of either finding extraterrestrial microorganisms, or receiving a radio message form an extraterrestrial source: When such discovery occurs, the implications are likely to have an impact on our culture requiring adjustments possibly more radical than those arising from the evidence that humans descend from microorganisms. See article. This article is from 1999.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Six exoplanets packed close to lone star and examining the Arecibo message

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 behind NASA's $600 million Kepler mission say they’ve detected a star system that packs six planets inside a space that would fit within the orbit of Venus in our own solar system. It’s the marquee event for this week’s “big reveal” from the most sensitive planet-hunting probe ever launched. See article.
g Life - Tyrannosaurus rex hunted like a lion, rather than regularly scavenging like a hyena, reveals new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. See article.
g Intelligence - A team of scientists from around the globe have found that gut bacteria may influence mammalian brain development and adult behavior. See article.
g Message - In 1974, astronomers sent the "Arecibo message," a binary-coded signal that decodes to a graphic illustrating some basic characteristics of Earth. The message was intended more to demonstrate the power of the telescope than to contact distant civilizations. Cornell's 25th anniversary announcement includes a decoded explanation and more information about what the scientists were thinking. See article. This article is from 1999.
g Cosmicus - If an asteroid was heading toward Earth, would it better to destroy it or alter its trajectory? One team of scientists is studying how to divert asteroids by heating their surfaces. The research could be important in the coming decades as the asteroid Apophis approaches our planet. See article.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Kepler potentially finds 50 planets in habitable zones and chances of finding 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 - NASA’s Kepler telescope is finding whole new worlds of possibilities in the search for alien life, including more than 50 potential planets that appear to be in the habitable zone. See article.
g Life - About 450 million years ago, Earth suffered the second-largest mass extinction in its history - the Late Ordovician mass extinction, during which more than 75 percent of marine species died. Exactly what caused this tremendous loss in biodiversity remains a mystery, but now researchers have discovered new details supporting the idea that the mass extinction was linked to a cooling climate. See article.
g Intelligence - A detailed analysis of data from 185 human genomes sequenced in the course of the 1000 Genomes Project has identified the genetic sequence of an unprecedented 28 000 structural variants (SVs) - large portions of the human genome which differ from one person to another. See article.
g Message - In 1961 the Drake Equation launched the search for other civilizations among the stars. How does it look today? What is the chance of finding aliens? See article. This article is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - Smaller and more energy-efficient electronic chips could be made using molybdenite. In an article appearing online Jan. 30 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, EPFL's Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures publishes a study showing that this material has distinct advantages over traditional silicon or graphene for use in electronics applications. See article.
g Learning - A new Texas museum opened Feb. 1 to honor the space shuttle Columbia and its seven-astronaut crew on the eighth anniversary of the fatal disaster that ended the orbiter's final mission. See article.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Temporal aspects of SETI and mass extinctions linked to climate

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 discovered new details surrounding the second-largest mass extinction in Earth's history. The new study shows that a loss of more than 75 percent of species in the world's oceans may have been linked to a cooling climate. See article.
g Life - Long-held theories about how dinosaurs became dominant on Earth some 230 million years ago may have to be re-written. A new study shows that when dinosaurs appeared, they may have co-existed with other animals rather than replacing them on the food chain. See article.
g Intelligence - It would seem that there are striking chronological parallels between significant variations of climate and major historical epochs, such as the Migration Period and the heyday of the Middle Ages. This is the conclusion reached following a study undertaken by researchers from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the United States, in which they were able to reconstruct the summer climate in Europe over the last 2,500 years from the information provided by annual tree rings. See article.
g Message - Here’s an interesting paper, “The Temporal Aspect of the Drake Equation and SETI", which critically investigates some evolutionary aspects of the famous Drake equation. Note: This paper is a few years old.
g Cosmicus - Crews have lived on the space station continuously for a decade now. Bringing drinking water to the space station for them is a costly affair, so over the years, NASA has found inventive ways to produce distilled clean water, using everything from ambient station humidity, created by astronauts' breath, to the crew's own urine. See article.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Exo-solar system resembles our own and SETI Down Under

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 - 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 - A new species of parrot-sized dinosaur, the first discovered with only one finger, has been unearthed in Inner Mongolia, China. See article.
g Intelligence - Book alert: In “The Earth After Us”, geologist Jan Zalasiewicz invites the reader to take a step in the scientific imagination far greater than that involved in looking at the Earth from the Moon, as the cover depicts. For the challenge taken up by the book is to look back at human civilization from a vantage point in time long after the human species itself has disappeared, through observations made by alien beings visiting the planet for the first time. See article.
g Message - SETI isn’t just an American endeavor. The Southern SERENDIP project is using the Parkes radio telescope in Australia to search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. See article.
g Cosmicus - This year, NASA will launch its final Space Shuttle missions. The development of the Shuttle had sprung from the supersonic rocket planes of Chuck Yeager, and was an answer to the question: what is the best way to send man into space? See article.

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