Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Water/Complex Carbon Found In Distant Solar System 210

Posted by Hemos
from the hello-hello-hello-is-there-anybody-out-there dept.
TheHulk writes: "Complex carbon molecules and water, which are key ingredients for life, have been found in the dust and gas around distant stars. The findings boost the theory that the cosmic stew of life is common in the universe."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Water/Complex Carbon Found in Distant Solar System

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hydrogen is also a key ingredient to life. That happens to be common in the universe, too. Duh. One thing the egg heads don't bother telling you is there are literally MILLIONS of keys required for life. Chemicals, radiation, gravity, magnetics, etc. IQ147
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Alien one:
    Hmm... there's plenty of silicon and sulphur dioxide around here, and I have yet to discover any sign of life...

    Alien two:
    Well, it can't be on the third planet... I mean, silicon wouldn't even be liquid at surface temperatures... Try the next star system...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Scientists are searching for "life as we know it" because it's the only life we know. I would be very difficult for them to search for a system of life that we are completely unaware of.
  • Haven't you ever seen "Contact"?

    Wow, Contact was a documentary? Here I thought it was wildy inaccurate fiction. Silly me.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • IIRC, silicon and carbon are the same shape. This is one reason why silicon based life forms are not dismissed automaticly.

    Bill - aka taniwha
    --

  • by bluGill (862) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:41AM (#413984)

    Agreed. Imangine there is a civizization 10,000 light years from Earth devolping at the same rate and time as humans. We would be unable to detect their television even if their transmitters were more powerful then ours and on and ideal frequency for communicating between star systems. Those television shows are still 9,920 years from reaching earth. Now if they are just as war like as us you can assume that nobody on either planet will be able to detect them. A war big enough to destroy civilization in the next 9,000 years isn't exactly unlikely.

    It is possibal that many civilizations have rose and fell over the years, and earthlings arrived at radio reception too late to detect the transmissions from the last one, but too soon for the next one. Note that because of the slow speed of light it is possibal for the transmission of the first civilization to not reach earth yet, while the transmissions from a latter one have gone by, and all three civilizations have missed each other.

    Of course if someone devolps enough space travel to havea self sufficant colinies in different star systems it is less likely that we have missed them. (Then you have to account for the possibility that earth is a self sufficant colony of a now long gone civialization, though that lack of remains tends to rule that out.

  • by Chacham (981)

    It is only because so many places do not have life, that this small possibility gets people excited. I really don't know why people are so excited. This doesn't prove anything, it just isn't a disproof. Find me a planet with Internet access, and then we'll talk about signs of life.



    ---
    ticks = jiffies;
    while (ticks == jiffies);
    ticks = jiffies;
  • How about if I believed ours was the only planet that had produced "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"? After all with all the "billions and billions" and stars out there with their "obvious" life, surely some other intelligent entity has generated these same tones.

    There was something like this in Babylon-5, where all known intelligent species had all produced something, though by different names, that was basically a sweedish meatballs dish.
  • I think you mean that to say intelligent life... :)
  • > People always seem to forget that if there is other life out there, that it'd most likely be *completely* different from us.

    I agree. I think a lot of the populace is poisoned by Star Trek, where aliens are, by and large, humans with face paint. There is no reason to expect extra-terrestrial life to resemble us.

    > To the point that most likely the biggest challenge in finding other life in the universe will be recognizing it as life.

    That's ridiculous. We know *exactly* what life is, and how to recognize it. How, you ask? It's quite simple...humans *invented* life. "Life" is merely a concept and a word. It is a notion that humans invented to suite our own needs.

    There is a precise scientific definition of what constitutes "life"...we define something as "living" if it meets the 7 (or so) requirements accepted by the scientific community. For a while there was a debate among scientists whether the definition should be changed to include viruses. Last I heard, viruses only met 5 of the 7 points. Hence, they are not technically living creatures. No problem there...life means whatever humans want it to mean. It's just that some humans felt "life" would be a more *useful* category if it included viruses. I see their argument.

    Anyway, my point is that many people don't understand that "life" is an entirely human creation -- purely an aspect of human language and science. There is no universal notion of living things. It's just a useful category that humans have created. If we encountered an alien species, there is no guarantee that they would have a similar notion to "life".

    --Lenny
  • by awa (4952)
    Did anyone notice the poll on the sidebar? They ask which strategy for finding extraterrestrial life could be most fruitful. Get back on the page and vote!

    It's a shame they did not include two obvious choices in the poll, though:
    • Chanting barefoot in the dessert until they come to get you.
    • Asking CowboyNeal
  • And then you could also state: "Why do we spend gazillions on other kinds of research when the money would be best used to solve world hunger" or something like that.

    To me it is a matter of width vs. depth. We need to answer all kinds of questions, if we all focus on just _some_ issues all kinds of interesting and important matters would never get found out.

    Just my 2 devaluated cents.
  • People often point to the lack of communication from other worlds as proof (or at least evidence) that we are alone.

    I wonder if the other forms of life don't use a different form of communications. If a life form developed with direct mental communications or the chemicl communication (like in some insects) then our frequencies shot out in space would mean nothing to them. They may be mentally projecting thier greetings to us be we are not equiped to recieve.

    Who knows?
  • Maybe there wasn't a larg rock that hit the earth and wiped out the dinosours. What if humanities ancestors crashed into earth in a very very large ship...the survivors came out of the ship and ended up replacing the dinosours....Ok, I agree, thats streching it quite a bit...but it was just a thought.
  • hmm, or they are sending the same byte over and over waiting for the parity check.
  • Yea, they came from Golgafrincham on the 'B' Ark...
  • It's a bigger problem if they haven't developed yet. If they developed a million years before us, they're probably still around.

    I would think a species would be most likely to destroy itself in the first couple of hundred thousand years. After that, it's all gravy.

    Well, not gravy per se; more like giant ephemorous energy-gathering constructs ~1 AU across, quietly gathering 99.999_% of the energy of their star(s).

    -
  • by shaka (13165) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:19AM (#413996)
    This sort of findings make me more and more suprised of people who still don't think there are foreign life forms in the Universe.

    Each finding suggests that life is probably a common thing in our Universe, since, with the findings of other solar systems with reasonably sized planets and even, as here, water, points out the conditions of the creation of life.

    Given the vast number of stars out there, even a tiny percentage of life-friendly planets makes it really probable of lots of life in every galaxy.

    Thing is, can we contact them? Can we travel to them, and they to us?

    Imagine finding out that there is (almost surely) life everywhere, but not being able to make contact. Hope not.
  • I'm not sure if I fully understand what you are trying to get at, but I think you are talking about mold and bacterial colonies.

    If so.. no, this doesn't expand to other locations in space. The first reason, there isn't bacteria there. Bacteria is life, and bacteria is what causes mold and fungi to form on coffee. If that isn't there, then there is no mold. And, as far as I know, this piece is missing.

    I could just be missing your argument completely though.

  • Religous zealots *refuting* the assertion that there is life on other planets??!??? Haven't you ever seen "Contact"? It's *scientists* that laugh at SETI and other attempts to look for extraterrestrial life. Religous *nuts* are all for alien life, as they would almost immediately transform aliens into "god-like figures". Now, as a religous person myself, (i.e., I go to church every Sunday and pray regularly) I think it would be the epitome of arrogance to think that God brought this galaxy into being, let alone the Universe, simple for one dinky planet on the outer edges of the Milky Way. I mean, that's ludicrous :-)

    Much more likely is that what is going on here is that same as has been going on with other worlds since the beginning of time (as we know it), and will probably continue on long after Earth is slagged into molten lava when the Sun novas. Anybody who believes in a real God, not an "all encompassing spirit that surrounds and binds us" (nods to Yoda), will admit that we are not alone in the Universe. It is pure and utter hubris to think otherwise.

    /me apologizes for Mozilla's screwed up formatting
  • Heh. I forgot the ;-) Sorry...
  • Yes, the Force was a synonym for God in Star Wars, and a lot of people believe in that sort of God, i.e., one that is unknown and unknowable. However, as one of those literal minded people ;-), I *do* believe that God was a man, and went through the same process we are going through (i.e., life, love, and death).

    To take this *completely* off-topic (hence the title change), I would submit that if God is truly our "Father in Heaven", the *only* long-term goal that he could have is to help us become like him. A lot of religous people get nervous at this point B-) The Eternal Plan that I envision includes an family that stretches back into infinity, with every generation striving to help it's children achieve the same status it has reached, with the children being us, but also God before us, and his parents before him. I can't imagine anything else that fits my premise, which is that God loves us, he is our spiritual Father, and that he is real, made of flesh and bone.

    Well, there goes my carefully built up karma hoard :-) And to think I got all the way up to 15....

    Oh, and the omnipresent thing is something thought up by Catholics, not something that is actually in the Bible (IIRC). In case you couldn't tell, I'm not Catholic B-)

  • yeah, they could definitely be there.

    As many detractors are fond of pointing out, our current Seti@Home effort wouldn't be powerful enough to find us humans if it were set up on another star.
  • by anomaly (15035) <tom.cooper3@g m a i l .com> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:26AM (#414002)
    Discovery of the components of life does not imply that life is plentiful.

    If I had all the components of a car (not assembled) I would not have a car until they were placed in the right order, with the right alignment, and the right torque applied to them.

    Simply discovering car parts (and what has been discovered is the raw material of car parts, not the parts themselves) does not indicate that we should find 'cars' in the universe.

    It's possible - and even more likely than if those parts didn't exist - BUT there's more required than what has been found.

    Stanley Miller's experiments proved that having the right component materials in 'ideal' circumstances doesn't even give the building blocks of life.
    (Dang chirality!)

    I'm not saying that life like ours doesn't exist elsewhere in the universe, just that it this discovery doesn't mean that it does.

    Life is hard. Creating life is REALLY hard.

    --Anomaly
    Now comes the part where I lose credibility with those of my readers who are closed-minded.

    God loves you and longs for relationship with you. If you want to know more about this, please contact me at tom_cooper at bigfoot dot com
  • Who knows?

    We do. Communication requires a carrier. We use photons because they travel at light speed. There is not any evidence that SUSY or strings will shake up the fundemental requirement that information travels on matter. Thus we know that the idea of mental projection in the absence of projecting some 'thing' (e.g. photons) is a looser.

    Further, the idea that low power intra-planet transmissions could take place between extra-terrestrials is interesting, but the high power needed for societal communication or worse yet inter-stellar communication could somehow be released from carbon based life is a similar no go.

    --

  • That's an assumption based on our own solar system and the stars we can see. We've yet to find planets in a system that resembles our own

    Only because we don't have equipment with enough sensitivity to find earth size planets in any orbits, much less distant ones like ours.

    (in fact scientists are rethinking the standard solar system model because of it)

    No they are rethinking it because of the wierd orbits of the 'jupiters' they are finding. Not because of the absence of 'earths'.

    So yes, assuming we're the only ones out here is jumping to conclusions, but so is assuming the universe falls neatly into the Heliocentric solar system model, don't you think?

    No.

    I think that expecting that the vast number of stars that are like our own with no near orbit Jupiters don't have a significant percentage with small approx 1 AU orbit planets is, well, anti-Heliocentric. I thought I made that clear. :-)


    --

  • by rw2 (17419)
    Citing "hubris" as a reason to believe in life on other planets is pretty lame. Would it be hubristic to believe there was no life in the rest of the Solar System?

    Yes. That was my position. It would be hubristic to believe that we are alone.

    Concerns about hubris are really just the inductive principle: things around here are probably average. But note the "probably". Induction is a good way to come up with a new hypothesis, but calling the output "obvious" is a fallacy.

    Ok. My theory is obvious and the fact that people don't see that is because of their hubris. As you say, the fact should be proven and I agree 100% on that. Somehow that thought in my head was lost in the translation to paper.

    As for intelligent life: intelligence isn't some kind of "ulimate endpoint" of evolution

    As for intelligence. I never said that the life elsewhere would be intelligent. Though I did say that in the absence of abundent life it was 'interesting' that the only place that it arose (here, of course) it would become intelligent.

    I'd be the first to argue that the vast majority of life outside of earth was not self aware. (an easy bet since it's true here as well...)

    --

  • I suppose it's not at all possible that the 'thing'(e.g. photon-like) is something undiscovered by human scientists thus far?

    Yes, that's exactly right.

    With the exception of a fringe group of WIMP researchers it is widely excepted that we know about all the particles that exist at normal energies. We've verified that research with research into many particles that don't exist at normal energies.

    You got me with the whole spelling thing though. You're right, I can't spell. Why memorize what can be looked up. (and I'll give you a shiny new nickle if you know who to attribute that to)

    --

  • by rw2 (17419)
    Let me get this straight. If I said to you "I think that Earth is the only life-bearing planet in the Solar System" you would call me hubristic?

    No. I'm a dork who missed the solar system reference while trying to post and work at the same time.

    Sorry.


    Something was lost here, too. If your theory is obvious, why do you think it needs to be proven?


    Because I want to be a research scientist and need funding... :-)

    No, as I said in the very first line of my post I'm aware that the unexpected sometimes happens. That's why we do experiments to verify. I'm just saying the hubris comes from believing in the 10 angstrom slice that was left behind after occums razor cut through the evidence and said, 'geez guys, why would you seriously consider a lonely universe theory in the almost complete absence of any evidence to support it'.


    --

  • by rw2 (17419) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:19AM (#414008) Homepage
    Look, I'm all about remembering there is a shadow of a doubt. As an active reader of bottomquark [bottomquark.com] I see the headlines outside of my own experience, and that sometimes corrections are made in theories.

    But really. We are an average planet around an average star. The hubris required to think that we are along in the universe is almost unmeasurable.

    Life is plentiful. The chemistry needed for life is all over the place and we have a planet that provides fantastic evidence that once a molecule is able to replicate itself then life pretty much explodes. There is no reason to believe that something unique happened here to create that initial set of circumstances.

    People often point to the lack of communication from other worlds as proof (or at least evidence) that we are alone. Hogwash! We haven't heard from them because there are invariant rules in the universe. This lack of communication is much better evidence that faster than light travel is insurmountable than it is that somehow in the great sea of chemistry that is the universe *we* managed to defy the odds and not only create life, but multicellular life. And not only multicellular, but thinking. And not only thinking, but self aware and communicative. Those are long odds, eh?

    Still, if this country (or planet for that matter) was scientifically litereate enough to understand all that I guess poliglut.org (shameless plug) wouldn't need to exist to straighten folks out... ;-)

    --

  • In Diaspora, they discover some "carpets" that communicate by waving feelers around. They conclude that these are showing intelligent communication, but there is no way we can communicate with them. Check it out, a really cool book that makes everything else seem sort of mundane by comparison.
  • by RobertFisher (21116) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @09:38AM (#414010) Homepage Journal
    I have several minor issues with this news announcement.

    1. The astronomers involved failed to place their discovery in the larger picture. Molecular clouds have been observed in a wide variety of molecues (CO, CO_2, H_2O, CS, H_2CO, HCOOH, C_2H_6, CH_3CH_2OH, etc...) for about thirty years now. Every now and then a slightly more complex molecule is discovered for the first time, but given the complex gas phase chemistry, this is not at all surprising.

    2. After failing to properly place the discovery in context, the article immediately leaps to the "origin of life" carrot.

    Our educational system has failed to educate the public in basic science, mathematics, and technology. Hence, popular articles such as these
    almost NEVER discuss the real scientific importance of discoveries (which would require a more thorough background than can be provided in a 1 minute soundbyte or a webpage -- not that the journalists themselves even have such a background themselves, mind you), scientific journalists continually dangles one of a handful of carrots in front of the dazzled, curious, though admittedly thoroughly ignorant populace :

    I. Cure of diseas/disorder (fill in the blank -- cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's, etc.), elimination of world starvation and/or poverty

    II. Faster computers, cleaner, more efficient automobiles, better toasters (or fill in favorite life-improvement gadget)

    III. Life, the Universe, and Everything

    In this case, carrot III was the most convenient.

    GET REAL PEOPLE. These many be noble goals, but the truth of the matter is that most scientists are motivated to solve intricate little riddles which are often very involved, but infinitely fascinating. While not diminishing important secondary factors (career, prestige, etc.), in general, they pursue science for science's sake, and only pull out these lame carrots for journalists and popular explanations. (They never use them when discussing amongst themselves). The popular view of a scientist is by now completely distorted by the fact that almost no one, besides other scientists, have the slightest clue as to what scientists ACTUALLY do, and what ACTUALLY
    motivates them to do what they do.

    3. Lastly, I think the slashdot editors need to exercise better discretion in choosing science topics. This must be the dozenth time I've seen a relatively unimportant, superhyped scientific discovery receive a billing by ./'s editors. If need be, they should put together a small volunteer board of experts in scientific disciplines to consult with before posting an article.

    Bob
  • Be proud, Buffalo, be proud!

    We'd drink it all if the tap was at a bowling alley, or maybe at Casino Niagara...

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:24AM (#414012) Journal
    We don't have to wait. 50 percent of stars [bbc.co.uk] like ours probably have metallic planets.

    A survey of middle-aged stars within 350 light years found that half of them were emitting light that showed metals were present in the top layers of the stars. That suggests that metallic dust, asteroids, and planets fell into the star. Not all that stuff falls in, so there are planets around a bunch of those. Planets that formed a long time ago.

  • Ok .. I know I could get the answers to this question by searching the net, etc, but well, I know someone here can explain it just as well, and it might make a good discussion, so here goes...

    How is it that scientists can find things like water, alcohol, etc that far away? what tools do they use? what software? what deductive logic? what information do they build on?

    I don't understand the process at all, so use little words :)

    thanks in advance.

    We emerge from our mother's womb an unformatted diskette; our culture formats us.
  • This isn't star trek, folks, where everything has two legs and can actually mate with one another.

    I thought that if two animals can successfully mate, then they are considered the same species?

    If humans can mate with Star Trek "aliens", then those aliens are human!
  • Intelligent design seems unlikely?

    You're reaching...and it's on things you don't understand. Things you don't understand mean a HIGHER intelligence than yours is needed to decipher them.
  • by bskin (35954) <bentomb@gmail . c om> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:45AM (#414019)
    But really. We are an average planet around an average star. The hubris required to think that we are along in the universe is almost unmeasurable.

    Well, there are certainly a few things that seem unusual about our planet. That big moon being one of them. But then again, like everything in life, i suspect that the planet that exactly fits the norm is more unusual than all the ones that don't quite.

    People often point to the lack of communication from other worlds as proof (or at least evidence) that we are alone. Hogwash! We haven't heard from them because there are invariant rules in the universe. This lack of communication is much better evidence that faster than light travel is insurmountable than it is that somehow in the great sea of chemistry that is the universe *we* managed to defy the odds and not only create life, but multicellular life. And not only multicellular, but thinking. And not only thinking, but self aware and communicative. Those are long odds, eh?

    People always seem to forget that if there is other life out there, that it'd most likely be *completely* different from us. Not in a looking funny kind of way, in *every* way. To the point that most likely the biggest challenge in finding other life in the universe will be recognizing it as life. Even if other beings have life, why would they think anything like us? This isn't star trek, folks, where everything has two legs and can actually mate with one another.

    The fact that there's no communication means nothing. Who says that another species would *want* to communicate? Who says they would ever develop tools, much less a desire to travel across the universe? Remember, the insects are for the most part far better adapted to this planet than we are.
  • You missed the fertile offspring bit, but I think that that is essentially the definition.
  • I remember writing a paper about life in space and reading paper where scientists had found ATP (adenosine triphosphate, a source of energy), ubiquidous and necessary for life on Earth.. Furthermore that on early Earth that the surrounding environment was the only source of ATP. Early primative life could not produce their own ATP, the ability to synthasis ATP as an energy source evolved later. Also I think that there is evidence of RNA in space.. I'm not sure about that though.

    Finding carbon rings in space is nothing new. These Nasa scientists are reveiling their lack of knowledge about biology getting all excite about finding benzene and water in space. The central paradigm of molecular biology (DNA->RNA->amino acid) would seem to indicate that the first protolife was in the form of RNA, which can join without the help of enzymes.. RNA itself can fact can act as a enzyme. Amino acids, were probably created 'de novo' by the organism or incorporated into the organism later..

  • "People always seem to forget that if there is other life out there, that it'd most likely be *completely* different from us. Not in a looking funny kind of way, in *every* way."
    According to the concepts of evolution, creatures evolve in reaction to their environment, to take advantage of their surroundings. Ultimately the goal of evolution is to produce a robust, flexible organism that not only reacts to it's environment, but to shape it to suit itself. The simplest organisms take advantage of their environments to feed and reproduce; the most complex (arguably humans) seek to change their environment to suit them. Ironic that up to a certain evolutionary point, organisms react to their environments by changing their dna and defense mechanisms, but in the final analysis, the most evolved creatures stop reacting and begin changing the environment.
    At any rate, my point is this: in a similar environment, on a similar planet, I see no reason life wouldn't take the same evolutionary paths as we have. So under closely related conditions after a few million years, I believe it's likely for some humanish creatures to reach the plateau that we have. Our superiority is no fluke; it's the result of millions of years of careful genetic reactionism.

  • How about if I believed ours was the only planet that had produced "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"?

    There was something like this in Babylon-5, where all known intelligent species had all produced something, though by different names, that was basically a sweedish meatballs dish.

    That was a minor throwaway joke, of course. On the other hand, the Crusade episode "The Needs of Earth" noted the distinction between scientific knowledge (which is inherent to reality and can be discovered by any intelligence using the right tools) and culture (which is an irreproducable result).
    /.

  • Because it's a lower molecular weight, from simple statistics a lot more carbon exists in the universe than similar elements (like silicon)

    Nope. After Hydrogen and Helium, the next most common element in the universe is Oxygen. Elements 3, 4, and 5 are actually way down on the list of common elements. So, statistically, you're wrong on this, although I do think that Carbon is fourth in overall abundance in the universe. (But, statistically, everything after Hydrogen and Helium is about the same.)

    As far as our planet is concerned, Oxygen is most abundant, then Silicon. Carbon isn't even in the top 10. Carbon is more abundant than Silicon in the universe, but on our planet (a big hunk of rock), Silicon wins the abundance battle. This is likely the case for all big life-bearing rocks (silicates).
    --
  • > Complex carbon molecules have been found for ages in space.

    Yup. Same-old-same-old.

    Wanna impress me? Gimme some insanely-long-baseline-interferometry capable of getting a spectrum from a planetary body and show me a big pile of diatomic oxygen.

    Until then, it's good research, but it doesn't change the big picture (the building blocks of life are everywhere) we've been aware of for a long time.

  • by Stickerboy (61554) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:47AM (#414032) Homepage
    Carbon is the lowest molecular weight element that easily forms complex chains. This is important for two reasons:

    1. Because it's a lower molecular weight, from simple statistics a lot more carbon exists in the universe than similar elements (like silicon). Because it's a lower molecular weight, the sheer size of the electron orbitals doesn't interfere with molecular bonding.

    2. "Foobarium", unless it has a tetrahedral organization like carbon, probably won't form the complex chains necessary for life. And since everything above silicon doesn't form chains due to weak molecular bonding, "foobarium", barring a revolution in the basic principles of life, doesn't exist. There are no silicon life forms on Earth because silicon chains break down in the presence of oxygen.
  • Absolutely right. "Components" is a pretty broad term. In fact, a car can be made by assembling only three things in the right way: protons, neutrons, and electrons :-) (OK, maybe some other elementary particles thrown in, too, but I think you could make it work with only those three).

    In fact, anything can be made by assembling these particles the right way. Computers, people, tennis shoes, Einstein's brain, the entire earth and everything in it.

    But I bet no one here can do it. Not even assemble a pencil from particles. And you'd have top wait a long time for it to happen spontaneously.
  • "But really. We are an average planet around an average star. The hubris required to think that we are along in the universe is almost unmeasurable." That's an assumption based on our own solar system and the stars we can see. We've yet to find planets in a system that resembles our own (in fact scientists are rethinking the standard solar system model because of it). So yes, assuming we're the only ones out here is jumping to conclusions, but so is assuming the universe falls neatly into the Heliocentric solar system model, don't you think?


    --Brogdon
  • by brogdon (65526) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:34AM (#414036) Homepage
    Why is it that when scientists are scoping out the universe for life, they're always looking for the things that make our form of life possible? Just because we've observed the forms of life around as being carbon-based doesn't mean that's the only option, does it?

    I'm reminded of back when scientists were sure that all life on this planet was based in some way on the photosynthesis cycle. Plants use the sun to make their energy, animals eat the plants for energy, decay puts materials back into the soil for plants to use as raw materials, and they engergize the whole system once again. They had this set in their minds as the paradigm of life, and then one day someone found organisms at the bottom of the sea living off the energy of a vent in the sea floor (chemosynthesis). Blew their minds.

    Anybody else a litle nervous about us searching space looking for our own form of life? Remeber in Stranger in a Strange Land when the scientists decided there couldn't be any life on Mars because there wasn't any oxygen? Let's learn from our Sci-fi, guys! :)


    --Brogdon
  • Thus we know that the idea of mental projection in the absence of projecting some 'thing' (e.g. photons) is a looser.

    I suppose it's not at all possible that the 'thing'(e.g. photon-like) is something undiscovered by human scientists thus far? About a thousand years ago we would regularly 'bleed' people to release 'bad humours' that were keeping them from being well. If, at that point, someone had proposed that microscopic 'germs' were the real cause, they probably would've been told that such ideas were also the 'looser' [sic].


    -The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)
  • . Anybody who believes in a real God, not an "all encompassing spirit that surrounds and binds us" (nods to Yoda), will admit that we are not alone in the Universe.

    Thanks for mentioning Yoda. It makes my response on-topic (since religion is off-topic, but star wars is ALWAYS on-topic).

    I always took the "FORCE" of the Star Wars series to be the exact same thing as "GOD." They're both symbols for the unknown (and unknowable) forces that guide us and shape our reality. The only difference I see in the concept of GOD and the concept of FORCE is that many literal-minded religious people tend to think of GOD as being a person, which doesn't make much sense when you consider all the other forms of life that are not even remotely human. (Plants, other animals, insects, bacteria, etc.)

    Besides, if GOD (a symbol) is really omnipresent and infinite, how could GOD be anything BUT an "all encompassing spirit that surrounds and binds us?"


    -The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)
  • So far, no one has brought this up in this thread, although a lot of people have kind of circled the mark. The Star Wars FORCE is not as close to the Western view of God as people seem to think. It is, however, pretty much equivalent to the Eastern concept of the Tao (procounced "dough", not "tau").

    Lucas was and is fascinated by Asian culture, and Japanese culture in particular. Note, for instance, the design of the snowtroopers from Empire and Amidala's costuming from Phantom. However, consider something more important than any of these design issues: the lightsaber. The lightsaber duels in all the movies (or at least the first three... I'm not sure about Phantom) were performed using kenjutsu, essentially modelling the Jedi after the ancient samurai. It therefore was natural for Lucas to choose an Eastern type of mysticism as the basis of his Jedi's beliefs. (Although traditionally, I believe the samurai were more Buddhist than they were Taoist, but I could be wrong.)

  • that's where random lightning strikes come into play... stir things up and make them more interesting...

  • There is an open minded post. The phrase "key ingredients for life" should be "key ingredients for life on this planet".
  • John Scalzi wrote that, it can be found at http://www.scalzi.com/john/best95.htm [scalzi.com]

    ----
  • by Life Blood (100124) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:23AM (#414059) Homepage

    I hate to be the voice of the devils advocate, but we need a lot more than animo acids to show that there is life on other worlds. Simple organic chem experiments show that given the right elements, its pretty easy to get animo acids. Finding them is actually no big surprise.

    The hardest part of the whole abiogenesis equation that we need is the formation of simple life from its ubiquitous amino acid building blocks. We essentially need some way for the building blocks to logically result in the creation of a castle through either random collisions or some other mechanism. This is the difficult part and some advances have been made in looking at organic chemistry in Zero-G. The problem is that we are still orders of magnitude away from getting a living and more importantly reproducing cell that natural selection requires for further evolution.

    In short, don't count your eggs before their hatched because we still have a long way to go. We really don't know how abiogenesis occured on earth yet, so to start saying that its occuring all over the universe may be a bit of a stretch.

  • by waldeaux (109942) <donahue@skepsis. ... m minus language> on Thursday February 22, 2001 @05:02AM (#414062)
    But really. We are an average planet around an average star.

    Actually, there's little evidence to back this up. I'm one of the team members on the project that tries to monitor a few hundred "solar-like" stars to test (among other things) how "normal" the Sun really is. Macroscopically, you can argue that it's on the Main Sequence, and doesn't do anything strange compared to other stars.

    However, if you change the problem around to looking for stars that are almost identical to the Sun in every way (working out of the assumption that if the Sun is "ordinary" then there should be a lot of other stars that are also "ordinary", out of a carefully-chosen sample, you come up with a very VERY short list --- it's in the single digits, and even then I keep finding reasons to exclude those stars from the list. One could almost claim at that point that there are no "average" stars.

    I hope to have a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal later this year on this topic.

    As for Earth being "average", again the evidence so far is that Solar System-like systems is not the norm. At this point we should be detecting Jupiters (5 AU orbiting planets with 1 Jupiter mass) around solar-like stars, yet the zoophony of extra-solar planetary systems favors either 51 Peg-like planets, or systems with planets that have highly eccentric orbits (e.g., the planet orbiting 16 Cyg B). There's a selection effect present, of course (it's easier to detect the ones with higher mass and shorter periods), but the surveys are reaching completion levels with long enough time series that we should be making up the difference *if* system configurations like ours are normal.

    (The implication here is that in neither the 51 Peg-like system or the 16 Cyg B-like system is it likely [possible?] to end up with an Earth-like planet --- they'll either get bounced our or the proto-planetary matter will be swept up.)

  • It's from an early 90's Sega Genesis game with a badly translated intro (from Japanese to English). "All your base are belong to us [allyourbase.net]" is just one of the (many) gramatical errors the translators made:
    In A.D. 2101
    War was beginning.
    Captain: What happen ?
    Operator: Somebody set up us the bomb
    Operator: We get signal
    Captain: What !
    Operator: Main screen turn on
    Captain: It's You !!
    Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
    Cats: All your base are belong to us
    Cats: You are on the way to destruction
    Captain: What you say !!
    Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time
    Cats: HA HA HA HA ....
    Cats: Take off every 'zig'
    Captain: You know what you doing
    Captain: Move 'zig'
    Captain: For great justice
  • by mauddib~ (126018) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:33AM (#414068) Homepage
    From what I've read from the article, aminoacids, complex carbonstructures and water are the key elements to life (at least life as we know it). Consider the following points:

    1) A solar system is a complex entity with a lot of different stages in the amounts of particles, temperature and type of molecules
    2) There is a big energy source around, capable of creating almost all of the lower weight atoms.
    3) Because of the energy source, there is a lot of different entropies in the system

    Consider these facts, and add the key element "time". Time is the main actor in evolution, allowing more complex elements to be formed.

    It's no so strange that there is water around a lot of (early) solar systems. I would find it strange if time didn't create aminoacids yet.

    Let's make an parallel with real life. Take the following ingredients:

    1. Time
    2. Coffee and hot water (energy sources)
    3. A coffee mug

    Make coffee, put coffee in mug and wait a little. Voila, you'll get white stuff on your coffee although the surroundings where completely random.

    Okay, what you're going to say is: this is completely logical, nature have made a way to use all energy available. But can't we stretch such a thing into the large, solar system-sized area?

    I'm really wondering, but I think the most important key elements are there with every solar system.
  • by tcd004 (134130) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:25AM (#414073) Homepage
    "The water released when these planets form may collect into oceans and lakes," Bergin said. "Those bodies not incorporated into planets may become what we call comets."

    I love it when scientists speak to reporters as if the reporters were 7th graders in an earth sciences lab.

    "That's what we in the scientific community like to call, 'a beaker' Johnny. Now please put it down before you break something."

    tcd004
    The Guts of the Pentium 4! [lostbrain.com]
    Dont' click here unless you want stock photos. [lostbrain.com]

  • Paraphrasing Steven Hawkings on the chance of intelligent alien life visiting earth:

    Odds are that intelligent alien life is in a position to communicate with us is remote. On the galactic scale intelligent alien life probably developed millions of years before us or they just crawled up out of the primordial swamp. Don't expect ET to phone....

    No harm in looking though...but keep it in perspective...

    Sterling

  • >If we encountered an alien species, there is no guarantee that they would have a similar notion to "life".

    "what do you mean they're 'made of meat'!?"

    ---

  • This sort of findings make me more and more suprised of people who still don't think there are foreign life forms in the Universe.

    Hehe.. there's some well-documented research that shows that foreign life forms exist right here on Earth! Of course, 'foreign' sorta depends on what country you originate from...


    Sean

  • Scientists discover Beer and Pizza in distant galaxies, along with signs of Caffeine in various forms. It seems that it is possible, or even likely, that there either is, was or will be, vast quantities of Geeks in Space...

    rr

  • are like Computers and Cooking -- they have no business with each other. The difference is that Scientists think they can apply what they know to religion, and religious people think they can apply what they know to science. A Pastry Chef would not try applying his/her cooking knowledge to a Kernel Patch, and a Samba coder would not try applying his/her C knowledge to a pasta dish...

    I sigh in your general direction.

    rr

  • I don't think readers of this comment quite got what I meant... firstly, who says you can't be religious and scientific? You can cook and program, can't you? Personally, I am religious, scientific, and I cook and program. I don't do any all that well, but I do them.

    Secondly, they're not the same. They can be treated similarly, but they are not the same. Science is about gaining knowledge from first principles. Religion (in my view) is about relationship. When studying science, you have to make certain assumptions (effectively materialism, as in "the only things that exist are the physical, material things"), otherwise things don't make sense. What sort of use would science be if we all sat down and said "oh, God makes the plants grow" and left it at that? Equally, saying "God doesn't exist because Science says so" is a circular argument.

    To the person who talked about skills, you are partly right. However, Religion and Science (cooking and programming) require different skills as well, and work from different assumptions.

    Finally, the person who talked about the same knowledge domains, yeah, it's kinda true. However, still it's different. Science and Religion both touch on the creation of the universe, but they cover different aspects of it. As long as you don't screw up your basic assumtions, you get practically useful info about processes that are happening now from science, and you get your knowledge about your relationship with God from Religion.

    Hence, Science and Religion are not related at all. I personally beleive in evolution, big bang and so on, as well as beleiving that God created the world ~6000 years ago as written in the bible. I see no conflict, as the scientific view is based on a materialist world view, and is useful for learning about how things work, changing things, building things, and so on, and the religious veiw is based on my relationship with god, and is useful for living my life.

    I think I'll stop here, as it's getting OT -- feel free to email me to carry on...

    rr

  • You're pretty paranoid aren't you?

    Besides, all this interstellar poltics doesn't matter now, Earth is slated to be demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. The plans have been in the Alpha Centauri office for hundreds of years.

    Time to start looking for the hitchhiker's guide.
    -Cyc

    So long, and thanks for all the fish

  • John Scalzi wrote that, it can be found at http://www.scalzi.com/john/best95.htm [scalzi.com]

    Thank you very much.

    The column is brilliant, and the writer deserves appropriate credit.

    Everyone should check out his other columns while we are at it. Reward him with a few hits.

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:38AM (#414092) Journal
    Well, a while back there was the story about ethyl alcohol being found floating free between the stars. This, combined with complex hydrocarbons, brings this classic to mind ( I wish I knew who the author was so that I give proper credit):

    This week, a million fraternity brothers rushed to join NASA. The reason: scientists have discovered beer in space.

    Well, not beer exactly. But they did find alcohol: ethyl alcohol, to be precise, the active ingredient in all major alcoholic drinks (antifreeze Jell-O shots, quite obviously, are exempted from this category). Three British scientists, Drs. Tom Millar, Geoffrey MacDonald and Rolf Habing, discovered this interstellar Everclear floating in a gas cloud in the contellation of Aquila (sign of the Eagle, the mascot of Anheuser-Busch! Hmmmmm).

    Millar and his compatriots have estimated the size of this gas cloud at approximately 1,000 times the diameter of our own solar system; there's enough alcohol out there, they say, to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer. These guys are British, mind you; if you were to translate this in terms of American beer (which the British, with some justification, regard as fermented club soda), the amount of potential brewski just about doubles.

    In human terms: remember that double-keg party you threw at the end of your Junior year in college (the second Junior year)? Imagine throwing that same party, every eight hours, for the next 30 billion years. You'd STILL have beer left over. And boy, would YOUR bathroom be a mess! Simply put, no one could ever drink 400 trillion trillion pints of beer, except maybe Buffalo Bills fans.

    The sheer volume of all this alcohol begs the question of how it managed to get out there in the first place. Despite the simplifying effect it has on the human brain, ethyl alcohol is a reasonably complex molecule: two carbon atoms, five hydrogen atoms, and a hydroxyl radical, all cavorting together in beery camaraderie. It's not a compund that is going to spontaneously arise out of the cold depths of space. It can lead to speculation: What is this cloud?

    1. It's God's beer. After all, He worked for six days creating the universe, and on the seventh day, He rested. And after you've had a hard week at the office, don't YOU grab a beer? Since man is made in God's image, it could be that this cloud is the remaining evidence of the first, and best, Miller Time.

    2. It's Purgatory ("400 trillion trillion bottles of beer on the wall, 400 trillion trillion bottles of beer! Take one down, pass it around, three hundred ninety-nine septillion, nine hundred ninety-nine sextillion, nine hundred ninety-nine quintillion, nine hundred ninety-nine quadrillion, nine hundred ninety-nine trillion, nine hundred ninety-nine billion, nine hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine, bottles of beer on the wall!")

    3. Proof of an undeniably highly advanced but chronically dipsomaniac alien society. This particular theory is shaky, however: it's reasonable to assume that if the aliens were going to construct a nebula of alcohol, they'd also have large clouds of Beer Nuts and pretzels nearby for snacking. Advanced spectral analysis has yet to locate them.

    The truth of the matter, however, is far more prosaic. In the middle of this gas cloud is a young and no doubt quite inebriated star. As the star heats up and contracts, sucking the dust and gas of the cloud into a smaller area, complex molecules form as a result of greater interaction between the elements. Ethyl alcohol forms on small motes of dust in the cloud, and then, as the motes angle in closer towards the star and heat up, the alcohol is released from the motes in gaseous form. And there you have it: an alcohol cloud. Or, as Dave Bowman might say, "My God! It's full of booze!"

    Enough with the science lesson, you say. Just tell me how to GET there! Sorry, Chuckles. You can't get there from here. The gas cloud (which, by the way, has the utterly romantic name of "G34.3") is 10,000 light years away: 58 quadrillion miles. Even if you hijacked the shuttle and headed out with thrusters on full, by the time you got there, the guy in Purgatory would be done with his tune. You'd have had time to work up a powerful thirst, but you'd also be, in a word, dead.

    No, the Space Beer Cloud will have to wait for the far future, when men can leap through the universe at warp speed. One can only imagine what they will do when they get there:

    Captain Kirk: My....GOD! Sulu! What....is....THAT?

    Sulu: It's a free floating cloud of alcohol, sir.

    Kirk: And we've just run out of Romulan Ale! Could it be a trap, Bones?

    Bones: Damn it, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a distiller of fine spirits!

    Kirk: We need that booze! But if we fly through that cloud, we'll be too drunk to drive!

    Spock: May I remind you, Captain, that I am a Vulcan. We are a race of designated drivers.

    Kirk: Well, all righty, then. Spock, drive us through! Bones and I will be out on the hull. With our mouths... open!

    To boldly drink what no man has drunk before.

  • Your thought-experiment suffers from a sample size which is far too low to make it relevant

    For the record, I agree with you. It's almost meaningless to conclude anything based on the information we have, but I'm just not going to let that stop me from having an opinion. :-)

    However, for the sake of argument...

    It's like me looking at my apartment of 6 rooms and noticing that, as far as I can see, there's only a computer in my dining room. "This is suggestive," I might say, "that dining-room like conditions really are the only situations in which computers can exist."

    OTOH, staying with that analogy, moving your computer to your bedroom won't cause it to malfunction. But move a human being to any other planet on the solar system (without any technological aids), and his life expectancy will be greatly shortened.

    --

  • by DeadVulcan (182139) <dead.vulcan@pobox . c om> on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:24AM (#414094)

    A number of people have commented that these types of molecules are only the key ingredients for life as we currently know it. This is fair enough.

    However, here's my point of view. In our own solar system, right here in our back yard, there is a very wide variety of different environments: the surface of every planet and moon is, in places subtly, and in places completely, different from each other.

    As far as we can see (so far) only Earth has life in our solar system. To me, this is suggestive. If you really believe that life can form in completely different environments, why didn't they form in any of the completely different environments that exist right next door?

    Of course, this is not proof; it's perhaps not even corroborating evidence. However, it's enough to make me believe (tentatively) that Earth-like conditions really are the only kind of conditions in which life can form in our universe.

    I'm open to the possibility that wildly different life could form elsewhere in the universe, and I know that there must be places in the universe that have environments that are so different as to be incomprehensible, but hey, we have to base our opinions on what we know currently. If we totally throw open the gates of possibility, then we can never come to any conclusion about anything.

    --

  • Some of you might be aware that the aliens we are seeing here on earth are rich kids who come to earth to have fun by appearing before people who are so weird nobody would believe them anyway.

    Now, my theory, nay, proven fact is that the large number of crashes [cseti.org] is due to interstellar drunken driving. Kids go to these clouds and get seriously pissed. It is well known in the Galactic Community (just ask any alien!) that the parties on earth take off, so the alien kids can't stop after inhaling a cloud, but continue to earth, where they are caught in our strong gravitional field with the inevitable result, a crash. ;-)

  • Hm, well, in this case, I can't say Occam's Razor (one of my favorites) can be applied. There is no evidence whatsoever either way, which means no valid conclusion can be drawn either way. Drawing any conclusion either way at this point (like you seem to do) is just going to blur your mind if any important evidence pop up for either hypothesis. We'll just have to continue searching (with piggy-back projects preferably...).
  • I'm a moderator right now as was going to mod this up for being funny but need I to straighten out something. Simply because there was an Xfiles episode showing life from silicon doesn't mean it's possible. Biochemistry is so complex and shape specific that simply having the same number of bonds as carbon and water will not make them react with other substances in place of carbon and water. Isoelectricity doesn't mean compatibility.

    But it is kind of funny on an irony scale.

  • Alternatively, what if we are aware of the carrier, but not aware that anything is encoded in it? The sound of a modem is hiss (one would guess noise if one didn't know otherwise), but it's actually full of Slashdot and pr0n. "They" could be using encoding we can't imagine (for example, 1 bit every 400 years may make sense to "them").
  • by skoda (211470) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:11AM (#414106) Homepage
    (sigh)

    I'm agnostic regarding the existence of extraterrestrial life. And while there are some interesting discoveries that show that the possibility of ET life is not unfounded, we are not yet at the point of saying, "Life is plentiful" with regards to any location except our own planet.

    What do we have?
    - Indirect evidence of planets. Note, there is not yet any direct observation of planets. Rather, they are inferred from the detecteed motion of stars, which is best explained by the presence of giant planets (e.g. Jupiter and larger). (I'm not trying to suggest that the scientists are wrong; just trying to make clear what we know and have have directly observed).

    - Evidence of carbon and water molecules in the further reaches of space.

    - Discoveries of extreme-condition life; the microbes that live in extreme environmental conditions.

    Well, good, it's generally believed that those are necessary ingredients for life, and we find that life will survive in pretty radical situations. But life this does not guarantee. Just because we find evidence of yeast and flour, it doesn't mean that there is bread nearby.

    Something that's been bothering me for a while, as a scientist, is my (possibly incorrect) understanding of the study of biological evolution. The physical sciences require both observations and predictions. Most scientists, I believe, hold that a theory is not truly useful unless it can be falsified. That is, a theory must predict something that can be verified or shown incorrect, e.g. the rate of descent of an object is independent of its mass.

    However, when it comes to the formation of life and its development, my impression is that there is a lack of falsifiable predictions. There are not predictions of the sort, given chemicals X & Y we will see life Z emerge; or, given environmental conditions A, life Z will develop into related form Z'. Instead, it is largely a matter of noting, conditions A existed when life Z' lived. Therefore, Z' must have been caused by A.

    This is not 'complete' science. So then, perhaps some of the more biologically-minded folk out there can answer my question:
    "Regarding the study of life and its genesis and development, are what are the falsifiable predictions?"

    IANAB (I am not a biologist), so I may be way off base here, but if so, please point me in the direction of some useful info. I'd appreciate it.
    -----
    D. Fischer
  • ...complete with water cooler and carbon paper for typing forms in triplicate.

    Accountants in space. It all makes sense now.

    How quantum gravity affects tax withholding and other actuarial issues... [ridiculopathy.com]

  • Yes, it is a shame that people read the absurd things that they write on sites like infidels.org. They always seem to quote sources that the majority of Muslims agree are unauthentic or they quote some translation which are far from the original meaning. What the Muslims have always been strict on is that the Quran is in Arabic and that you can attempt to translate the meaning of the words but you can't translate the Quran itself. As a result, I can take-up your challenge because I have access to the Quranic Arabic and can clearly see the mistakes that they make on infidel.org. I can only presume that the poeple who wrote the articles on infidel.org a). don't know Arabic and b). haven't read any of the books of the scholars from where we take our explanation of the verses in the Qur'an.

  • If the FORCE and GOD were equivalent, when Saul was struck down on the road to Damascus, he would have recovered, gained much evil power, and persecuted Christians ever more.

    Now, if you want to make an analogy that using the FORCE is akin to witchcraft, possesion or Wicca, you can make a better analogy.

    Yeap, I think the FORCE is evil, and an abomination, especially the way Lucas is portraying it usurping GOD's power to create a Virgin Birth.

    Of course, that makes the Jedi akin to Templars, then, a goodlly group of people that were seduced by evil.
  • can't we just use the philotic twinings on our ansibles? It really appears to be the most promising form of communication across galactic distances.

    -chaswell, who doesn't even know if he was trying to be funny.
  • Actually, although the likelihood of multiple occurences of something that could be defined as biological "life" is extremely high, the likelihood that any of these life-forms is intelligent is much, much lower.

    As best as we can tell human-type intelligence is not a notably desirable evolutionary trait. Most of the obvious benefits of a versatile intelligence can be better met by evolution for strength and a few specific instincts. For pre-Agrarian (hunter-gatherer) societies of, say, Ape-like creatures the pressure to develop into something that has an intellect capable of devising radio, inter-steller space travel and Classical music is very low. On the other hand, the pressure to develop of thick skull, big arms and the ability to tell by instinct which berries are poisonous is quite high.

    Human intelligence, if a coincidence at all, would seem to be something of an environmental fluke. The chances of life on any given Earth-sized planet are low; the chances of "intelligent life" are very low.

  • When talking about intelligent life, we are fully lost in the haze of subjectivity. What is intelligence ? What is life ? And what is the combination of the two ? Intelligence is relative and this is why some people say that we are an intelligent species. Because we have acquired the capacity to learn how to survive in most environments on earth. Because we seem to be masters of our destiny. Because we have the power of Linux whereas my cat is still using Windows 95. Because we have landed on the moon. This is a blatant superiority of human being over animals. On earth. However, my friend Ford Prefect from another galaxy told me that human beings are totally braindead: on his planet, instead of going to school, they download all their knowledge to their conscience, they are eternal, they travel between dimensions, go back and forth in time and spend most of their time upgrading Beos, they don't reproduce, they are.

    In terms of life, why is there a limit between a virus and a bacteria ? Intelligent life is definitely a human concept. There seems to be a constant though in the universe: it's that its disorder is increasing every day and at the same time, we observe that matter takes more and more complex shapes. If the strings theory is true, at the beginning there were strings which turned into elementary particles, which associated thanks to the strong interaction force, which turned into more complex particles like atoms with their properties which associated into molecules with again very different properties according to their composition, properties like NDA. Eventually some of these particles associated to turn into what we call living organisms. These organisms evoluted into more complex organisms and there we are, in front of our TVs, watching the match, having a Bud, worshipping god, self-claimed intelligent life.

    As an analogy for the computer nerds (I've heard there were quite a few here), we have silicium and electricty, then transistors, then hardware, then assembly, then C, then object oriented languages, then visual languages, then XML applications, then ...

    The universe seems to go in the sense of more abstraction, a process which we call evolution. Note that when you put living beings together, you have micro and macro social behaviours. What is the next level ? Who knows whether some alien species have reached several other levels which we could not even conceive ? Who knows whether water and amino-acids are the only way for matter to restructure itself into a more complex shape ? Who knows whether there are only 4 dimensions, whether the speed of light is the ultimate limit, whether time is only going forwards, whether there is only one time dimension ?

    And no please, do not mention god or God or Buddha or Bill Gates or Ronaldo. If such a concept exists, it should be the same for the whole universe no ? What would happen if one day we meet some kind of intelligent conscient blue color who wants to communicate with us ?

    Well, I do believe that life sows its seeds chaotically in the whole universe and a few experiments have shown that water, amino-acids and a few temperature, pressure, ... conditions (and time) could in some circumstances bring to the kind of life we understand. Therefore if we discover some of these elements in some other distant place, there are more conditions for life to emerge than in vacuum. As far as we are aware. Of course, it is not enough, it does not prove anything. But if we have not made stupid assumptions like that in the past, we would probably be dying of the plague on a flat world fearing that the sky falls on our heads no ?

    And who knows, maybe a few messages were sent by some living species at some point and the whole communications were gobbled by a black hole in the center of our galaxy. That's also a probability.
  • ...but yes, this is that company.
    --
  • "I've always though it interesting that so much of life on Earth has developed so similar. Take the Mammals group for instance. Mammals tend to have 4 legs (sometimes used as arms), similar diets, similar mating techniques, etc."

    I sincerely hope you are some kind of 5 year-old typing prodigy, because the thought of an adult (or even a high-schooler) not understanding why the above is true is truly frightening.
    --
  • "I'm just saying the hubris comes from believing in the 10 angstrom slice that was left behind after occums razor cut through the evidence and said, 'geez guys, why would you seriously consider a lonely universe theory in the almost complete absence of any evidence to support it'."

    The actual parsing of this sentence is beyond me, but I think I get the gist. Let me explain where I'm coming from here:

    It used to be that people thought the sun revolved around the Earth. This was hubristic but not just because they thought they were in the middle. It was hubristic because it elevated the status of Earth despite the fact that it made the theory more complicated (by requiring retro-grade motion for planets, etc).

    Now, one could make the argument that a universe with only one life-bearing planet requires more explanation than a universe with multiple such planets, in which case I agree that saying Earth is alone without providing that special explanation is probably hubristic. However given how little we know about general biological (not to mention geological, climatological, etc) principles--we only really have one example--then such special explanations can easily abound.
    --
  • by OlympicSponsor (236309) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:01AM (#414132)
    Me: "Citing "hubris" as a reason to believe in life on other planets is pretty lame. Would it be hubristic to believe there was no life in the rest of the Solar System?"

    You: "Yes. That was my position. It would be hubristic to believe that we are alone."

    Let me get this straight. If I said to you "I think that Earth is the only life-bearing planet in the Solar System" you would call me hubristic? What if we visited all the (solar) planets and found no life? What if I said "I think Earth is the only life-bearing planet in the Earth-Moon system"? Is it hubristic to think that humans are the only intelligent being on Earth?

    "My theory is obvious and the fact that people don't see that is because of their hubris. As you say, the fact should be proven and I agree 100% on that. Somehow that thought in my head was lost in the translation to paper."

    Something was lost here, too. If your theory is obvious, why do you think it needs to be proven? Or do you mean "it's obvious but possibly false" (kind of like Aristotle's theories of motion)--in which case, why is hubris the only answer for non-adherents to your cause? Couldn't it be that we see through the "obviousness" to the truth?
    --
  • by OlympicSponsor (236309) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:20AM (#414133)
    It could make all the difference. Ideally, they are about 3 billion years distant. That way, if we start NOW in our light-speed ships, it'll give time for these "complex carbon chains" to evolve into dinosaurs and then be killed off by an asteroid. When we arrive, ta-da! strategic oil reserves!

    Hey, it's more intelligent than what we're doing NOW....
    --
  • by OlympicSponsor (236309) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:45AM (#414134)
    Let me start by saying that I believe in life (although maybe not intelligent life) exists on other planets. BUT

    Citing "hubris" as a reason to believe in life on other planets is pretty lame. Would it be hubristic to believe there was no life in the rest of the Solar System? If not, why not--it the same as your argument about the universe. How about if I believed ours was the only planet that had produced "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"? After all with all the "billions and billions" and stars out there with their "obvious" life, surely some other intelligent entity has generated these same tones. To believe otherwise would be hubristic.

    Concerns about hubris are really just the inductive principle: things around here are probably average. But note the "probably". Induction is a good way to come up with a new hypothesis, but calling the output "obvious" is a fallacy. Why don't we just go see? At the very least it can show us WHICH planets the life is living on before we go haring off in all directions.

    As for intelligent life: intelligence isn't some kind of "ulimate endpoint" of evolution--evolution has no goals. Our ancestors happened to have had selection pressures that resulted in descendents that are intelligent. Elephants happened to have had pressures that result in trunks. Would it be hubristic to think that elephant trunks are unique in the universe? Who knows what conditions will obtain at another location. I sure hope there's intelligent life out there, but I don't think it's "obvious".
    --
  • I think your metaphor is interesting, but it ulitmately breaks down, because unlike cooking and kernel hacking, science and religion do attempt to address similar knowledge domains (such as the creation and fate of the universe, for example). It's just that one of them has no mechanism for handling the introduction of new physical evidence.


    --

  • by RareHeintz (244414) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:25AM (#414138) Homepage Journal
    ...that we'll be detecting amino acids somewhere outside our own solar system in the next 10 years. In the meantime, it'll be fun to watch religious zealots and other anti-science nuts scramble to (yet again) "refute" the assertion that life could be elsewhere.

    One thought came to mind: I wonder about the possibility of life (defined loosely as collections of molecules that reproduce) is possible in the stellar medium, without having to have a planet as a substrate? Admittedly, there are problems (such as not having sufficient local gravity to pack the interesting molecules together under correct pressure/temperature conditions to react), but if you have a mix of water and organic molecules, it does beg the question.

    Any thoughts?

    Insert obligatory Andromeda Strain reference here.

    OK,
    - B
    --

  • ...that if I find potatos growing naturally in a field, that I could theorise that somewhere there are packets of potato chips growing too?

    -----

  • by jeff13 (255285) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:55AM (#414146) Homepage

    Bill Waterson said it best...

    The only evidence that there is intelligent life else where in the universe is the fact they have never come here.
    ______
    jeff13
  • by Ananova (255600)
    It's nice to hear that there is extraintelligent life, but I think the question every /. reader wants answered is:

    Do they run Linux?

    If we find that the space aliens run Windows NT, it's bad news - although they'll be very pretty to look at when they're coming towards Earth, they'll crash just as they get to the surface.

    Also, what's the uptime on their spaceship? Did they notice any improvement in stability after recompiling the kernel?
    --
  • It is difficult to fully imagine what other non-carbon-based forms of life are like. We're somewhat aware of what makes up our life and what signals and indications to look for. We understand that complex organic molecules can be chained together in a water-borne environment to form simple chemically active proto-cells and so forth. This provides us with a proven set of search parameters. It works here, so it could work elsewhere.

    While we can conjecture about life-forms made from silicon or whatever, it remains purely theoretical. There isn't too much concrete evidence about what we should look for from a silicon-based life-form.

    Think of it as a go-with-what-you-know strategy.

  • I think the point that we're missing here is that carbon and oxygen are the key ingredients for life as we know it. Now, it's way too early and I'm way to sober to wax philisophical, but isn't it arrogant to say that all life depends on carbon? How do we know that some other race/species/whatever out there is looking at Earth saying "hmm, no huge deposits of foobarium there, there must not be any life?"
  • In the same token, isn't it arrogant to presume that life developed in a different way from life on Earth would be presumptious enough to assume that they should be looking to life similar/equal to their own. The chances are the other life forms, especially life forms advanced enough to find/look at Earth in detail from a great distance away (by travel or by instruments), would be a little more open-minded than what twentieth-twenty-first century man is. I would hope that by the time we are able to reach far enough away to go look at other planets in detail that we would have evolved past the "what we know is all that can be" garbage that is believed today.

    But what do I know, I'm just an idiotic man, a product of the society I bash. That kind of sucks too.;-)

  • I believe this discussion has been had here before, but:,

    It is abundantly obvious that the 'design' of the human body, or even some of the 'lesser' creatures is extremely wasteful. So, if we were designed (and that is one mighty gargantuan if, we were designed by an imbecile that had absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing.

    Oh, and your attempt at saying that because we don't understand means it must be a higher intelligence is really ridiculous. That is religious posturing, nothing more. I don't understand how the hell anyone could stomach Britney Spears, does that mean she was created by a HIGHER intelligence? Very doubtful. But, go ahead and live with your delusions. That's probably easier than questioning the things around you.

    Questions are hard, I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself.

  • by pogen (303331) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:59AM (#414167) Homepage
    If I had all the components of a car (not assembled) I would not have a car until they were placed in the right order, with the right alignment, and the right torque applied to them.

    This is a slightly misleading analogy, as the components of a car cannot "automatically" assemble themselves in the right order, alignment, and torque. Molecules can, just by being placed near each other.

    Stanley Miller's experiments proved that having the right component materials in 'ideal' circumstances doesn't even give the building blocks of life.

    No. At best, his experiments proved that the building blocks of life do not appear (relatively) instantaneously. No one ever said they did. Give him a few billion years, and a beaker as big as the Earth, and I think you would see different results.

  • by grayhaired (314097) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @07:25AM (#414174) Journal

    Complex carbon molecules have been found for ages in space. I recall some 10-20 years ago when they found glycine (an amino acid) and trumpeted that as an advance. Now more recently they've found signs of benzene in space, so I guess it's time for the ol' hip hip hurrah again.

    Water is a common element in space. No news there.

  • In the form of red dwarves.

    In the 1960's, a well respected russian astronomer known as N Kardashev came up with the Kardashev system of determining alien civilisations.

    • Kardashev Type I Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a planet.
    • Kardashev Type II Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a star. ie, a Dyson sphere.
    • Kardashev Type III Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of an entire galaxy. Probably the rarest and most powerful.

    The scary thing is that a Dyson Sphere would look almost exactly like a red dwarve star. It could well be that many phenomena we see in space and interpret as natural phenomena are in fact megascale engineering projects of distant civilisations.

    Another possibility is that these distant civilisations use Matrioshka Brains, big computers in the form of Dyson Spheres, surrounding a star. Everybody would be uploaded into this environment, and would become as gods.

    Problem is, we are pumping out radiation all the time, from our television transmitters and our mobile phones and so on. It is like the cheeping of a new born bird, we are alone and naked and letting everyone know where we are. There is no reason to suppose that such civilisations would be friendly. I think we should take enormous and difficult steps to quiet down out interstellar emissions. It is time to start playing interstellar politics.

    More info can be found here [plantetp.cc], a very interesting page on this subject by an esteemed author.
    --
    Clarity does not require the absence of impurities,

  • by Hiedi Wall (318437) on Wednesday February 21, 2001 @08:12AM (#414185)
    In the form of red dwarves. In the 1960's, a well respected russian astronomer known as N Kardashev came up with the Kardashev system of determining alien civilisations. Kardashev Type I Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a planet. Kardashev Type II Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a star. ie, a Dyson sphere. Kardashev Type III Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of an entire galaxy. Probably the rarest and most powerful. The scary thing is that a Dyson Sphere would look almost exactly like a red dwarve star. It could well be that many phenomena we see in space and interpret as natural phenomena are in fact megascale engineering projects of distant civilisations. Another possibility is that these distant civilisations use Matrioshka Brains, big computers in the form of Dyson Spheres, surrounding a star. Everybody would be uploaded into this environment, and would become as gods. Problem is, we are pumping out radiation all the time, from our television transmitters and our mobile phones and so on. It is like the cheeping of a new born bird, we are alone and naked and letting everyone know where we are. There is no reason to suppose that such civilisations would be friendly. I think we should take enormous and difficult steps to quiet down out interstellar emissions. It is time to start playing interstellar politics. More info can be found here, a very interesting page on this subject by an esteemed author. -- Trust in God, but tie your camel -- Old Persian proverb.

For God's sake, stop researching for a while and begin to think!

Working...