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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Could Call From E.T. Be Coming Soon?

This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, on the surface of Mars. NASA plans to launch a new Mars rover and science lab on November 25. (AP/NASA)

This artist's rendering provided by NASA portrays the Mars Rover, Opportunity, on the surface of Mars. NASA plans to launch a new Mars rover and science lab on November 25. (AP/NASA)

With NASA’s $2.5 billion unmanned mission to Mars slated to launch on November 25, and the recent discovery of a potentially habitable planet a mere 35 light years from Earth (203 trillion miles) in the constellation of Vela, scientists may be closer to discovering alien life than ever before.

However, as Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute says, the first life forms we’re likely to encounter won’t be little green men, but nearly invisible microbes.

Shostak says even microscopic life from alien worlds are important discoveries, and he believes that intelligent life will also be found eventually.

Guest:

  • Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at SETI Institute

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

    I’m not sure how many people still assume that we’re alone, but if we did find evidence to the contrary, I don’t understand why we wouldn’t still consider our little blue marble to be a special, unique place. After all, it’s unlikely that there’s a world exactly like ours, at least ‘nearby’, with the same exact solar system (including lunar/tidal) characteristics that have shaped life’s development here. There is probably a diversity of biospheres out there, on their own particular evolutionary paths, and all potentially wonderful and fascinating in their own right.

    • Jasoturner

      We are certainly alone in our grand self-regard.  “Made in god’s image” indeed.  The paucity of our imagination to conceive of things greater and stranger than ourselves is stunning.  And rather embarrassing.  As is our disregard for the fragile blue marble we happen to inhabit.

  • Emjones

    Seth,

    Many use the familiar Drake
    Equation to try to arrive at a reasonable estimate of how many intelligent
    civilizations there are in our galaxy. But here’s my backwards calculation of
    the number of intelligent civilizations: Let’s assume there are 15,000,000,000
    (fifteen billion) intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations–in the observable
    universe. Then only one-in-ten galaxies have one, and any hope of ever
    detecting one may be hopeless, or stated another way; and given these numbers,
    there’s a 10:1 probability that we are alone in our galaxy.

    • rls

      Whatever the probability, if extraterrestrial lif is anything like us it might be far wiser to avoid contact rather than to seek it out.

      • Zanzibarjack

        Fortunately most of the ones unable to mature beyond our species of hoodie chavs, have probably done dodo impressions by now, but the law of averages must have some pretty evil ets out there

    • Zanzibarjack

      Like all equations that someone just made up in their head with no rule to prove it. You should call the Drake equation, the Drake speculation. The Zanzibarjack equation is- microbial evidence from Mars+ amino acids in comet tails+ billions of different life forms on this planet= universe teeming with life- three diverse hits in one solar system, how many hundreds of millions of solar systems in this galaxy?

      • Jasoturner

        I don’t think you understand the Drake Equation.  It is provisional, but it is not arbitrarily “made up”.

        Perhaps similarly, many people who study Thermodynamics for the first time also think that new forms of energy are just “made up” in order to validate the Law of Conservation of Energy when things don’t seem to add up.  However, these energy forms – say chemical energy – were also provisional at one time.

  • Martin in OR

    Seth is the biggest horse’s a$$ on the planet and his opinions have no weight or merit.

    • Zanzibarjack

      your reasons being…?

      • Jasoturner

        Don’t bring “reason” into this!

  • Anonymous

    As Carl Sagan pointed out not only would you have to be lucky enough to find a habitable planet, you would have to find it at the same point in time where both contain intelligent life forms, not a very good chance of that happening given the timeline of the Universe. Then of course the “intelligent” beings on the other planet have to have get past the point where they could blow their planet up or simply run out of resources before they figure out how to travel in space. We are quickly approaching a point in time where either one of these scenarios could play out for our own planet. We survived one nuclear crisis but the number of nuclear players has increased since then.

  • Jasoturner

    It’ll be great to see organized religion try and tap dance around this issue on the day we find a novel, demonstrably non-terrestrial form of life.  Or relics thereof.

    Although I am not aware of any strong empirical laws of self-replication having been developed yet, it is clear that self replication and evolution is a common aspect of the physical universe.  Just look at how many different types of eyes have evolved right here on little old earth alone, for instance!

    Fascinating, big picture thing to think about.

  • Ed

    “EARTH IS AN INSANE ASYLUM, TO WHICH THE OTHER PLANETS DEPORT THEIRLUNATICS.” –Voltaire (Memnon the Philosopher).

    “If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” — George Carlin

  • Aidanbitcon

    aliens are awesome!

  • Alex Tsukernik

    The potential for finding microscopic life forms on extrasolar planets would be significant!
    Eventually there could be more discoveries leading to intelligent life forms that are sentient and we could in time communicate with them! I believe first by the interstellar messages and the space probes that the space agencies sent to the universe beyond the solar system and eventually by direct contact and communication will lead us to evolve to a spacefaring civilization destined for our human species! But among other things we must take care of the biological diversity and the endangered species on planet Earth at the same time as we seek life elsewhere in space and the universe! 

  • Kburly

    WOW. I think that’s about 48,000,000, per state for food and  shelter for real humans.

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