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UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life 97

An anonymous reader writes New research at the University of East Anglia finds that oceans are vital in the search for alien life. So far, computer simulations of habitable climates on other planets have focused on their atmospheres. But oceans play an equally vital role in moderating climates on planets and bringing stability to the climate, according to the study. From the press release: "The research team from UEA's schools of Mathematics and Environmental Sciences created a computer simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They looked at how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account. Prof David Stevens from UEA's school of Mathematics said: 'The number of planets being discovered outside our solar system is rapidly increasing. This research will help answer whether or not these planets could sustain alien life. We know that many planets are completely uninhabitable because they are either too close or too far from their sun. A planet's habitable zone is based on its distance from the sun and temperatures at which it is possible for the planet to have liquid water. But until now, most habitability models have neglected the impact of oceans on climate.'"
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UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

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  • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday July 21, 2014 @02:24PM (#47502439) Homepage

    but I don't think we should rule out the possibility

    Not only shouldn't we, we simply can't, because we have no way of knowing.

    There is no scientifically valid way to rule out life forms which are unlike our own, because we don't know what they would require or thrive on.

    The same as when people say "but why aren't we searching for life which is unlike us", the answer becomes "because we don't know how". There's no basis on which to conclude anything other than "well, we couldn't live there".

    At best, we can say a planet is uninhabitable by us, but we really cannot say it is uninhabitable by life we can't even imagine and which is significantly different from what we know.

    Anybody who tries to tell you there is no chance of life as we don't know it existing someplace is saying much more than they actually know.

  • Re:Correction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday July 21, 2014 @02:38PM (#47502537) Homepage

    If it is sub-intelligent, then it might meet some definition of "life," but would have no impact on life here.

    Oh yeah, what if they're tasty? Some Cerulian maple-bacon pig or something. ;-)

    But, more importantly, if we find life on another planet (or wherever), of any form, intelligent or not, that in and of itself would have a huge impact on life here even if we couldn't get there.

    Because the answer to "is there life anywhere else" will have been answered, and the people who loudly say there is only life on this planet will be proven wrong.

    And, if we know there's like here, and then confirm there's life elsewhere ... given the size of the universe, you would more or less have to conclude that life is pretty widespread.

    Even if it was unintelligent, the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe would be utterly monumental in a lot of different ways.

    To me, I don't think you can overstate just how big of a deal that would be. Because it would be a complete game changer in a lot of ways, and lay rest to the notion that Earth is singularly unique in that regard.

    I just don't see such a discovery having 'no impact'. Not even a little.

  • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Monday July 21, 2014 @02:51PM (#47502633)

    I wish I had mod points. Every time I hear about planets not being able to support life, this is my first thought.

    And every time a story about extraterrestrial life gets posted on Slashdot, several dozen people say exactly the same thing, as if they've had some brilliantly original insight that the scientists researching the subject missed. No one is explicitly ruling out the possibility that there are gaseous lifeforms living in the clouds of gas giants, or silicon-based rock monsters like the one in Star Trek. Hell, it would be a huge discovery if we found something like that. But since we're presently incapable of observing such lifeforms firsthand, and have no idea what we should be looking for at a distance of light-years, we have to settle for looking for the planetary "signatures" of temperature, oceans, oxygen content, etc. It may not satisfy the pedants, but it's still extremely difficult by itself. When we're capable of actually exploring other solar systems directly, then maybe we can start to look for fantasy lifeforms on frozen airless rocks and methane clouds.

  • Re:Correction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Monday July 21, 2014 @05:33PM (#47503769)

    Actually, we know almost all basic chemistry, and the range of (stable) molecules that silicon can form is orders of magnitude less than for carbon.

    Well, yeah, but I didn't want to offend the pedants even further. Unless the laws of physics (and therefore basic chemistry) are very different elsewhere in the galaxy, it's not unreasonable to think that carbon-based, liquid-water-dependent lifeforms are the most probable. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a tidy sum of money that the overwhelming majority of unique forms of life are not terribly dissimilar from ours as far as the underlying chemistry is concerned. They might be fantastically alien in all sorts of other strange ways, but they'll still be based on simple organic polymers. But this is still irrelevant to the discussion at hand, because even if there were different forms of life, we have no idea how we might detect them at astronomical distances.

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