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Sat Aug 6, 2022, 02:11 PM

The One Critical Mistake Alien Hunters Keep Making

Our search for alien life is getting serious. With better telescopes and a growing scientific consensus that we’re probably not alone in the universe, we’re beginning to look farther and wider across the vastness of space for evidence of extraterrestrials.

But it’s possible we’re looking for too few signs in too few places. Having evolved on Earth, surrounded by Earth life, we assume alien life would look and behave like terrestrial life.

What if we’re wrong? What if E.T. is out there waiting to be discovered by the first astronomer willing to open their mind to the possibility that, to us, alien life might seem really weird?

Some scientists are trying to fix our Earth bias. In a new study that was made available to read on July 27, a team led by Arwen Nicholson, an astrophysicist at the University of Exeter, attacked one assumption that’s widespread in astronomy. There’s a common line of thought that a distant “exoplanet”—a planet outside the solar system—would need a certain amount of oxygen and hydrogen to support life. And those lifeforms, as they lived and died and evolved, would excrete methane gas that would build up in the atmosphere.

Methane is one of the big things astronomers look for when it comes to evidence of alien life. They call it a “biosignature.” But with over 5,000 thousand confirmed exoplanets on the official roster and only so many telescopes that are powerful enough to survey them, astronomers tend to exclude planets that appear to be nutrient-poor—lacking, say, the concentration of hydrogen that we have here on Earth.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/alien-hunters-need-to-start-rethinking-the-definition-of-life?ref=home

I once read a SF series called Starbridge, by A.C. Crispin, which assumed otherwise in some cases. It was...interesting.

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Reply The One Critical Mistake Alien Hunters Keep Making (Original post)
Jilly_in_VA Aug 6 OP
4dog Aug 6 #1
Warpy Aug 6 #2
2naSalit Aug 6 #3
Warpy Aug 6 #4
Jilly_in_VA Aug 6 #5
cstanleytech Aug 6 #6
Jilly_in_VA Aug 7 #10
Kaleva Aug 7 #7
Irish_Dem Aug 7 #8
Random Boomer Aug 7 #9

Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sat Aug 6, 2022, 02:18 PM

1. Here's an out-of-the-box thought on intelligence

Primo Levi wrote a piece in The Periodic Table called Iron, in which the information of the intelligent protagonist/writer is contained in the arrangement of the electron spins in iron. The writer has to leave Earth because the oxygen is rusting him/her/it.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sat Aug 6, 2022, 04:16 PM

2. The bias is "life as we know it," and the key isn't methane,

something that is relatively abundant, it's phosphorous, which is not. It's basic on this planet, forming the phospho lipid cellular membrane of everything we've found that meets the criteria for "alive," and some that does not, like viruses.

Perhaps other worlds have evolved different strategies for protecting DNA and RNA from destruction by radiation of all types, but we're really not equipped to realize it's alive, let alone intelligent, not yet.

Give us a few million years, if we don't blow ourselves up or poison ourselves into extinction, we might be ready to figure it out.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #2)

Sat Aug 6, 2022, 05:32 PM

3. A few years ago...

I was watching a lunar eclipse with some friends, some were kids, and the conversation got into some interesting speculations as we watched all kinds of stuff going on in the darkened sky that didn't seem right.

I had an epiphanous sort of hypothesis, if you will, pop into my head that keeps coming back around to the forefront with new discoveries in the vastness of space. If it were the case for humans on this planet, though, it would indicate that we have it all wrong from the start and are still thinking too much inside the box. Might be too different for some so I'll not write it out here.

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Response to 2naSalit (Reply #3)

Sat Aug 6, 2022, 06:33 PM

4. They're finding out what a weird little planet this is

which greatly diminishes the chances of one just like it, one orbiting a star directly but with enough of an iron rich liquid mantle around an iron-nickel solid core to generate a protective magnetic field to deflect much solar radiation, with a tiny co planet to stabilize its rotation. The speculation for some time is that small planets orbiting gas giants farther away from the star might be better places to look for life in general, so some out of the box thinking is starting to take place.

Then again, life seems to exist here wherever there is a source of food energy to exploit. Cases in point are bugs eating hydrogen sulfide in deep caves and bugs growing in radioactive waste water here and in the UK, cleaning up the waste. Eventually, when science figures out how to remove the "elephant's foot" deep inside Chernobyl #4, they might find bugs happily chowing down on it and making it much smaller than anticipated. The habitable zone is getting bigger and bigger.

However, the one thing all these organisms have in common is phosphorus.

Intelligence is a little tougher. We're in the infancy of looking for it, too, and have discovered even bacteria demonstrate degrees of self awareness and intelligent behavior. We know other species are likely intelligent at our own level, the problem is communication.

Consider the humble slime mold: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/slime-mold-smart-brainless-cognition/

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sat Aug 6, 2022, 06:56 PM

5. We're just figuring out

how other species on our own planet communicate--the latest buzz (forgive me) being that bees have a rich inner life that we didn't know about. I have long thought that elephants, the great apes, and whales are the other true higher intelligences on the planet and that they probably think in ways we don't and maybe can't comprehend.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sat Aug 6, 2022, 07:55 PM

6. I believe another factor that is not thought of is

that the reason we have not detected any advanced civilizations in our galaxy is that no species is eternal.
So if it takes millions of years for a species to rise up prior ones might very well have already gone extinct.

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Response to cstanleytech (Reply #6)

Sun Aug 7, 2022, 03:18 PM

10. Or they might be

just getting started and way behind us.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sun Aug 7, 2022, 03:16 AM

7. There's 100 billion to maybe 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe

We will never know how many galaxies are out beyond the boundary of the observable universe.

Each galaxy can hold trillions of planets.

It's possible that we humans are the only advanced form of life in our galaxy. Other galaxies may not have any and others could have a few to many.

Thus there could be millions or even billions of advanced civilizations out there but we may never detect them because the Universe is so freaking big.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sun Aug 7, 2022, 11:47 AM

8. The universe is probably teeming with all sorts of life.

Beings who thrive in whatever kind of environment they find themselves in.

Humans are too primitive in their knowledge to understand it, and too primitive in their morality to appreciate it.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Sun Aug 7, 2022, 12:35 PM

9. Am I the only one...

Am I the only one who thinks finding alien life could easily turn into a "be careful what you wish for" scenario?

Maybe we should be trying really hard to be inconspicuous instead.

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