ET Is Real?

ETbuckleupSeth Borenstein writes a very positive story for AP in which he suggests that all signs point to extraterrestrial life:

Lately, a handful of new discoveries make it seem more likely that we are not alone – that there is life somewhere else in the universe.

In the past several days, scientists have reported there are three times as many stars as they previously thought. Another group of researchers discovered a microbe can live on arsenic, expanding our understanding of how life can thrive under the harshest environments. And earlier this year, astronomers for the first time said they’d found a potentially habitable planet.

“The evidence is just getting stronger and stronger,” said Carl Pilcher, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, which studies the origins, evolution and possibilities of life in the universe. “I think anybody looking at this evidence is going to say, ‘There’s got to be life out there.'”

A caveat: Since much of this research is new, scientists are still debating how solid the conclusions are.

Another reason to not get too excited is that the search for life starts small – microscopically small – and then looks to evolution for more. The first signs of life elsewhere are more likely to be closer to slime mold than to ET. It can evolve from there.

Scientists have an equation that calculates the odds of civilized life on another planet. But much of it includes factors that are pure guesswork on less-than-astronomical factors, such as the likelihood of the evolution of intelligence and how long civilizations last. Stripped to its simplistic core – with the requirement for intelligence and civilization removed – the calculations hinge on two basic factors: How many places out there can support life? And how hard is it for life to take root?

What last week’s findings did was both increase the number of potential homes for life and broaden the definition of what life is. That means the probability for alien life is higher than ever before, agree 10 scientists interviewed by The Associated Press…

[continues at AP]

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  • not_as_UniQ_as_U_thnk

    Such conservatism is way behind the times. There is not a single convincing argument for believing that this tiny solitary planet is the only one in the whole uncountable, practically infinite mass of planets in the universe that can support life – unless one is still convinced of the intellectual-stone-age level of Biblical argument.

    As for the related questions of ‘how hard is it for life to take root?’ and ‘how hard is it for life to develop into complex self-conscious organisms?’, I believe that before 2050 arrives we’re going to have answered both of those questions, thus:

    i. life is an inevitable product of material evolution
    ii. complex self-conscious organisms are an inevitable product of biological evolution

    By ‘inevitable’ I don’t mean ‘they can’t be prevented’, but rather that ‘they will arise more often than not given basic amenable conditions (e.g., gravitational stability, regular cycles of temperate thermal variation, the presence of certain life-sustaining chemical elements and molecues)’.

    The only sensible question that remains (I think Bill Bryson was the first populariser of this argument) is how far is it to the nearest planet with self-conscious organisms on it? Bryson suspects too far to be realistic contactable, meaning that in effect we are alone, unless science comes up with ‘Star-Trek’ like travel modes.

  • not_as_UniQ_as_U_thnk

    Such conservatism is way behind the times. There is not a single convincing argument for believing that this tiny solitary planet is the only one in the whole uncountable, practically infinite mass of planets in the universe that can support life – unless one is still convinced of the intellectual-stone-age level of Biblical argument.

    As for the related questions of ‘how hard is it for life to take root?’ and ‘how hard is it for life to develop into complex self-conscious organisms?’, I believe that before 2050 arrives we’re going to have answered both of those questions, thus:

    i. life is an inevitable product of material evolution
    ii. complex self-conscious organisms are an inevitable product of biological evolution

    By ‘inevitable’ I don’t mean ‘they can’t be prevented’, but rather that ‘they will arise more often than not given basic amenable conditions (e.g., gravitational stability, regular cycles of temperate thermal variation, the presence of certain life-sustaining chemical elements and molecues)’.

    The only sensible question that remains (I think Bill Bryson was the first populariser of this argument) is how far is it to the nearest planet with self-conscious organisms on it? Bryson suspects too far to be realistic contactable, meaning that in effect we are alone, unless science comes up with ‘Star-Trek’ like travel modes.

    • Ironaddict06

      I agree, but I think it will happen sooner. I say with in the next 2 years, due to Kepler’s mission of finding earth like planets.

  • Ironaddict06

    I agree, but I think it will happen sooner. I say with in the next 2 years, due to Kepler’s mission of finding earth like planets.

  • Belcat

    If you put it in mathematical terms, there’s an infinite amount of planets out there, so no matter how small the odds of life are of developing, it must have happened somewhere else. And how do we know there isn’t other planets beyond what we can see… so I do mean infinite. Now, if we will ever meet up with those… that’s another matter.

  • Belcat

    If you put it in mathematical terms, there’s an infinite amount of planets out there, so no matter how small the odds of life are of developing, it must have happened somewhere else. And how do we know there isn’t other planets beyond what we can see… so I do mean infinite. Now, if we will ever meet up with those… that’s another matter.

    • Izkata

      Cosmic background radiation marks the edge of the universe. There is a limit, not infinity, but it is absurdly high.

  • Izkata

    Cosmic background radiation marks the edge of the universe. There is a limit, not infinity, but it is absurdly high.

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