April 26, 2010

Aliens are here!

No, not quite. But Stephen Hawking talked about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence but cautioned against trying too hard to make contact with them.

I am firmly in the corner of folks who believe that alien life exists. The vastness of the universe means that the probability of the existence of life elsewhere is just too high. There's no reason why life can evolve only on planet Earth — an ordinary planet if ever there was one. Earth is of course 'just right' for the existence of life in so many ways. It's neither too big nor too small. It's neither too close to the Sun nor too far away from it. It has a moon which is unusually large relative to the size of the home planet. Water exists in liquid form on the planet. There are oceans and there are waves in the oceans thanks to the large moon. All these factors have been propitious in leading to the evolution of biological life on the planet.

It's truly fascinating to speculate about what forms life might take on other planets in different circumstances.

When Hawking suggests caution, perhaps he is right. Some of the species out there might not look upon Earth benevolently. But our ways of looking for extraterrestrial life is mostly passive rather than active. We are mostly listening to the universe in wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that we believe might point to the existence of extraterrestrial life.

In the centuries to come, humans will become sufficiently advanced technologically and our confidence in our own abilities can grow correspondingly.

Perhaps, life is common elsewhere in the universe but most of those lifeforms will be basic like virus or bacteria. It is likely to be far more rare for complex organisms like humans to evolve.

I am reasonably sure that our galaxy only has one technologically advanced life form and that exists here on Earth. Perhaps even 100 or 1,000 galaxies might harbor only one planet with intelligent creatures like humans.

Here's the article about Hawking:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/space/article7107207.ece

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