CAVES WITH LIZARDS
We once thought there might be “people” on Venus or Mars.
It seemed possible.
We didn’t know much about planets. Maybe there were caves with lizards.
Now we know almost too much. We have equipment routinely exploring the surface of Mars, probing, drilling, sniffing, analyzing. Lizards, we would have seen.
The search for life “out there” goes on. Nothing yet. Maybe nothing til hell goes cryothermic.
The reason I bring this up is that there are people with an interest in alien life who think we missed it. They think it’s on our own planet.
Don’t look up, they say. Look down
SHADOW BIOSPHERE: A WORLD WITHIN A WORLD
The bugs who were our ancestors weren’t bashful. They got going as soon as there was the least little chance that they could move in. By about 3.6 billion years ago the crust of the earth was more or less solid. Suddenly, somehow, life popped up. We don’t know exactly how. We have some theories. We do know that some very simple organisms eventually evolved into the sports crazed organisms of modern day.
How many times did life get going? Were there some bad designs that didn’t do well – more homely, maybe, than our own DNA kind? Based on entirely different processes? Did they hide out in isolated “niches”? And nobody bothered them? Are they in seawater maybe at low concentrations?
Carol E Cleland (Center for Astrobiology, University of Colorado), says we won’t find this parallel universe of living things if we don’t look for it. And we almost certainly missed it if it is there. It would have flunked all of our “is that thing like me?” tests.
The idea of a Shadow Biosphere is appealingly simple. It’s safe and easy. We live here. So do they, maybe. We can do the search on a shoestring without launching rockets. If we do happen to find something really weird – something that’s alive but built along different lines than our own strand of life, we will know for a fact that 1) life is not to be denied. It’s opportunistic. It will flourish if it can flourish. 2) We will also know that it’s on other planets. Period. If you were yearning for extraterrestrial life, you would then be able to relax knowing that it will, eventually, show up elsewhere.
How’s that for a cheap experiment?
Dr. Cleland’s article, The Search for Shadow Life, is in New Scientist.
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Regular readers will recognize the cartoonist as the author.