Some of the scientists who think that life must exist elsewhere in the universe base their opinion on the fact that life is very likely to emerge on Earth-like planets. How can we test this theory?
In the May 14th edition of the New York Times, Paul Davies writes: “The mechanism of life’s origin remains shrouded in mystery. So how can we test the idea that the transition from nonlife to life is simple enough to happen repeatedly? The most obvious and straightforward way is to search for a second form of life on Earth. No planet is more Earth-like than Earth itself, so if the path to life is easy, then life should have started up many times over right here.
“The denizens of the hidden ‘alien’ biosphere might employ radically different biochemical processes than the life we know and love. Microbiologists could easily have overlooked their existence, because their methods are focused on the biochemistry of standard life. Obviously, if you go looking for A, you will find A and not B.”
Surprisingly, most of the life right here on Earth has never been classified. Most of this consists of microbes, which can only be seen through a microscope. Researchers Felisa Wolfe-Simon and Ron Oremland tested the “life is common” theory by searching for microscopic life in the arsenic that lines the bottom of Mono Lake in California. If a poison like arsenic can contain life, surely life is more common that we’ve thought. There could be more than a billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, so the universe could filled with life. Davies’ theory is that finding a new form of life on Earth will be an indication that this may be true.
Davies says, “If my theory turns out to be correct, it will have sweeping consequences. Should we find a second form of life right here on our doorstep, we could be confident that life is a truly cosmic phenomenon. If so, there may well be sentient beings somewhere in the galaxy wondering, as do we, if they are not alone in the universe.”
We’re going to test LOTS of fascinating theories at our extraordinary Dreamland Festival! We’ve had a delightful time in the past and we expect warm sunny weather again this year, so if you want to find out what your favorite Dreamland hosts are thinking, then join us on June 25-27 for a thought-provoking good time!
Art credit: Dreamstime.com
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