Last Updated: Monday, January 25, 2010 | 11:28 AM ET
The U.K.'s leading astronomer says the chance of finding life elsewhere in the universe is better than ever, though others say looking for E.T. is a waste of time.
Astronomers and other scientists have gathered in London for a two-day international conference on the search for extra-terrestrial life. The conference began Monday at the Royal Society, Britain's academy of science.
Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society and Britain's Astronomer Royal, says the chances of finding life in the cosmos have never been better.
"Technology has advanced so that for the very first time we can actually have the realistic hope of detecting planets no bigger than the Earth orbiting other stars," Rees told the conference.
He said it's now possible to learn about the atmospheres, oceans and even continents present on planets outside our solar system.
"Although it is a long shot to be able to learn more about any life on them ... it's tremendous progress to be able to get some sort of image of another planet, rather like the Earth, orbiting another star."
Rees said the discovery of extra-terrestrial life would change humanity's view of its place in the universe.
"Were we to find life — even the simplest life — elsewhere, that would clearly be one of the great discoveries of the 21st century," he said.
"I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms that we can't conceive, and there could, of course, be forms of intelligence beyond human capacity, beyond us much as we are beyond a chimpanzee."
But Paul Davis, a physicist at Arizona State University, says scientists should give up on finding and communicating with life in space and concentrate on finding "alien" life on Earth.
Davies says finding life on Earth that is completely separate from the rest of the planet's biology — for instance, in extreme environments like volcanic vents or salt lakes — would suggest that life emerged more than once on this planet.
For example, geologist Felissa Wolfe-Simon of the U.S. Geological Survey is searching for exotic life forms in Mono Lake, a California lake with a large naturally occurring deposit of arsenic.
In her work, Wolfe-Simon is trying to find out if organisms there could use the arsenic in their biochemistry the same way more other life on the planet uses phosphorus.
Davies's talk at the conference focuses on the history of SETI, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and the "eerie silence" that came after astronomers tried sending out messages into space.
In another talk at the conference, Simon Conway Morris, an evolutionary paleobiologist at Cambridge University, will predict what alien beings might be like. He says they probably would look very much like humans.
Conway Morris argues that evolution is highly predictable and intelligent life would likely come in a form similar to ours: with eyes, two legs, a body and limbs. That means the rubber masks that the aliens of Star Trek and Star Wars wore might not be too far from the truth.
http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010 ... rence.html
The search for alien life forms should be conducted here on Earth rather than in outer space, scientists have claimed.
Published: 7:24AM GMT 25 Jan 2010
Professor Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona University will tell a meeting at the Royal Society that the best way of proving that extra-terrestrial life exists elsewhere in the universe is to use evidence from earth.
The meeting at the Royal Society, which will include representatives from Nasa, the European Space Agency and the UN Office for Outer space Affairs marks the 5th anniversary of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme. Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society will also lead one of the sessions.
Prof Davies said: We need to give up the notion that ET is sending us some sort of customised message and take a new approach."
He suggested that the search could focus on deserts, volcanic vents, salt-saturated lakes and the dry valleys of Antarctica - places where ordinary life struggles to survive - to find "weird" microbes that belong to a "shadow biosphere".
Felissa Wolfe-Simon, from the US Geological Survey, is currently looking at the possibility that arsenic, found in contaminated places such as the Mono Lake in California, might support forms of life in the same way as other life forms use phosphorous.
However, Professor Colin Pillinger, who led the Beagle 2 Mars landing mission remains sceptical. He said: "I prefer to deal in scientific fact - this is wildly science fiction. You'd be off your trolley to go searching for arsenic-based life."
Prof Pillinger argues that Mars is the most likely place to find alien life.
The conference will also discuss how humans might respond to the discovery of extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Albert Harrison, the from University of California, said: "It is easy to imagine scenarios resulting in widespread psychological disintegration and social chaos. but historical prototypes, reactions to false alarms and survey results suggest that the predominant response to the discover of a microwave transmission from light years away is likely to be equanimity, perhaps even delight."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/spac ... ntist.html
By Michael Hanlon, Science Editor
Last updated at 8:32 AM on 26th January 2010
Six-eyed slime monsters. Tentacled terrors. Giant creepy-crawlies. But as scientists debate what form ET might take, MICHAEL HANLON says that the most terrifying possibility of all is that we're alone in the Universe...
As a science writer, I often wonder what could be the biggest story to break in my line of work, something which would put up a fight with the Second Coming for precedence on the front page.
The arrival of the first human clone perhaps? Interesting, but not truly world-changing.
A cure for cancer? That would be the story of the century, but sadly it will probably never happen (cancer is, in any case, many diseases, not one).
No, the biggest event would be the confirmed discovery of intelligent alien life.
Microbes on Mars, say, would be a huge enough story, although after the initial excitement this would be seen as of mostly academic interest.
But the discovery of intelligent alien life would be almost unimaginable in its consequences.
The knowledge that the human mind is not unique would force us to rethink everything we know about life, the Universe and everything. Many would be elated.
But some scientists fear that the consequences for our 'primitive' civilisation should it be discovered by advanced aliens could be truly terrifying. War Of The Worlds could be a more accurate portrayal of alien intent than Close Encounters.
This week one scientist points out that if we do discover aliens, we should keep quiet.
However, such fears are, for the time being, academic. Despite half a century of searching, we still have no real clue whether life in the cosmos is common - or unique to Earth.
It was back in April 1960 that a young astronomer called Frank Drake took control of a radio telescope in West Virginia, and pointed it at a sun-like star called Tau Ceti, which lies 66trillion miles away (pretty close by cosmic standards) and listened in.
He had no idea whether Tau Ceti had planets orbiting it, nor whether any of these planets might be similar to Earth, nor whether they might be inhabited by creatures with radio transmitters. But, he reasoned logically, he had to start somewhere.
This week, a conference at the Royal Society to mark the anniversary of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, known as SETI, is hearing evidence for and against the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Yesterday Frank Drake, now 79, pointed out that in 1960 'we had no idea. Maybe all the stars were broadcasting' .
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... pe-so.html
By Richard Ingham (AFP) – 17 hours ago
LONDON — The law of probabilities backs theories that we are not alone in the Universe, although an encounter with an advanced civilisation may shock our species, scientists at a conference in London said on Monday.
"There is no firm evidence that life exists elsewhere, but there is a very firm probability" for it, said Baruch Blumberg, an astrobiologist at the Fox Chance Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
"My clear prediction is that living generations have an excellent chance of seeing extra-terrestrial life being detected," said Martin Dominik, an astronomer at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Life on Earth may have been kickstarted thanks to carbon molecules and dust that drift through interstellar space, said Pascale Ehrenfreund, an astrochemist at George Washington University, Washington.
If so, "the basic building blocks of life -- at least as recognised on Earth -- must be widespread in planetary systems in our Milky Way and other galaxies," she suggested.
The two-day conference is being hosted by Britain's Royal Society, one of the cradles of modern science, as part of a series of discussions on major issues to mark the academy's 350th anniversary.
The meeting is not intended to give any conclusion on whether other life exists but give a snapshot of where we are in our quest to find it -- and speculate on the impacts of such a discovery on human society.
Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, said it was essential to admit to our present ignorance.
"We don't even know how life began here on Earth and that being said, we don't even know how to place our bets on how widespread life is or where to look for it," he said in an interview.
Even so, new astronomical tools, including powerful orbital telescopes, are exposing "extra-solar" worlds, or planets orbiting other stars, and one of them could eventually be revealed as a potential haven for life, said Blumberg.
Since 1995, "more than 400 extrasolar planets have been detected and the number is increasing rapidly," he said.
Intriguingly, though, none so far has been found to be in the lucky position of Earth.
We inhabit a rocky planet orbiting in the so-called Goldilocks zone, where it is not too hot, not too cold but just balmy enough for water, one of the key ingredients for life as we know it, to exist in liquid form.
Some of the speakers scorned Hollywood's notion of the extraterrestrial, whose anatomy was invariably inspired by a human design (four limbs and a head housing an external brain) and whose behaviour was driven by human emotions of anger and love.
If alien life exists, our first discovery is likely to be in microscopic form, which would not be too disconcerting for our civilisation, said Albert Harrison, a social psychologist at the University of California at Davis.
It could be as a bacterium found in promising sites in the Solar System such as the sub-soil of Mars, Jupiter's satellite Europa or on the Saturnian moon Enceladus, which are thought to harbour oceans beneath their icy crust, some hope.
Simon Conway Morris, a professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge, offered a contrasting view.
"My own opinion is that the origin of life is a complete fluke," he said. "I fear that we are completely alone... there's nothing (out) there at all, not a thing."
Should smart aliens want to contact us, he warned, we should not necessarily think they will be cuddly, kind and wise, in the Spielberg genre.
"They could be like the Aztecs, just as aggressive and extremely unpleasant," he said. "If I'm wrong, and the telephone rings, whatever you do, do not pick it up... we might not want to say hello."
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/ar ... ILywESRXzA
Ted Thornhill - 25th January, 2010
New space telescopes are greatly increasing the chances of finding life in outer space, but some scientists say the search for aliens must begin on Earth.
In fact, the highly respected Royal Society is meeting this week to discuss the possibility that, just like in the sci-fi blockbuster Men in Black, alien lifeforms have already set up home among us.
Top US physicist Paul Davies, who will address the Society tomorrow as the Search For Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) celebrates its 50th anniversary, said: ‘We need to give up the notion that ET is sending us some sort of customised message and take a new approach.’
SETI has so far heard only the depressing hiss of static during the five decades that its been scanning the heavens for alien radio broadcasts.
Professor Davies told The Times that a better place to look for aliens would be in Earth’s ‘shadow biosphere’, inhospitable locations such as deserts and volcanic vents that might harbour microbes from outer space.
Meanwhile, Lord Rees, the president of the organistion and Astronomer Royal, would prefer our focus to be on the galaxies around us, using new cutting-edge space telescopes to find planets with life.
He told the BBC: ‘Technology has advanced so that for the very first time we can actually have the realistic hope of detecting planets no bigger than the earth orbiting other stars.
‘We’ll be able to learn whether they have continents and oceans, learning what type of atmosphere they have.
‘Were we to find life, even the simplest life, elsewhere that would clearly be one of the great discoveries of the 21st Century.
‘I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms that we can’t conceive.
‘And there could, of course, be forms of intelligence beyond human capacity, beyond as much as we are beyond a chimpanzee.’
http://www.metro.co.uk/news/810266-scie ... dy-be-here
Here's more, just follow the links
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpres ... VrAAC6UMag
http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/201 ... ption.html
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=11 ... id=3510208
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-enter ... 78670.html
http://news.stv.tv/scotland/152841-man- ... ife-forms/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/scie ... nomer.html
http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/uk_national_ ... lien_life/
These are some articles published in the last 48 hours. What's happening guys are we finally there?
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