Saturday, February 11, 2012

Planet spotted around F-type star and answers to Fermi’s Paradox

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 - Understanding the structure, dynamics, and chemistry of planetary atmospheres is key to exoplanetary science. It’s sobering to realize that as of now it is still an enormous challenge to model even the atmospheres of planets in our own solar system. Despite great advances, a variety of trickery has to be employed to simulate a swirling maelstrom like the Jovian atmosphere, pretending for example that it has a very different soupiness and energy transport in order to overcome computational demands. Modeling the atmospheres of gas giant exoplanets is even more in its infancy. Nonetheless, an intriguing result a couple of years ago came from Crossfield et al. and their study of how we see the infrared light varying in the planetary system of Upsilon Andromedae. Their Spitzer space telescope phase photometry (light seen as time passes) on Ups And reveals the glow emitted by the innermost, roughly Jupiter sized, planet around this F dwarf star (about 1.3 times the mass of the Sun). See article.
g Life - They are tiny, ugly, disease-carrying little blood-suckers that most people have never seen or heard of, but a new discovery in a one-of-a-kind fossil shows that "bat flies" have been doing their noxious business with bats for at least 20 million years. See article.
g Intelligence - A preference for fatty foods has a genetic basis, according to researchers, who discovered that people with certain forms of the CD36 gene may like high-fat foods more than those who have other forms of this gene. 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 reviews.
g Imagining - Speculation about aliens has typically been left to science fiction authors, science fiction readers and Hollywood writers and directors. But what if we apply what we have learned about life on Earth to speculate about what alien life forms might be like? See primer.

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