Major NASA announcement tomorrow may reveal new form of life
Tomorrow, NASA will be holding a press conference that some analysts have determined will reveal new evidence for expanded possibilities of life. Since the accompanying scientific paper is still under embargo, the exact nature of the announcement must be felt out by way of clues surrounding the press conference itself. As Paul Sutherland notes:
A key scientist on NASA’s panel will be Dr Felisa Wolfe-Simon who has spent two years investigating Mono Lake, close to California’s Yosemite National Park. The lake has no outlet and has, over many millenia, built up one of the highest natural concentrations of arsenic on Earth.
Geobiologist Dr Wolfe-Simon has been looking to see whether microbes with a totally different make-up to that of conventional carbon-based life could have developed. There was an interesting article about her search for alien life on Earth in NASA’s online Astrobiology Magazine.
The importance that NASA attaches to her discovery and its implications for finding extra-terrestrial life is demonstrated by the fact that they will have on tomorrow’s panel experts on two other sites in the solar system where life might have developed.
They are Pamela Conrad who is looking for life on Mars and Steven Benner who is studying Saturn’s largest moon Titan which has a dense atmosphere like Earth but lakes of liquid methane rather than water. Also on the panel will be ecologist James Elser who is involved with a NASA-funded search for ET.
The agency itself has summarized tomorrow’s announcement as follows:
NASA will hold a news conference at 2 pm EST (1900 GMT) on Thursday, December 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
… which itself is compatible with the prior determination of some revelation involving Mono Lake and the possibility of a second instance of abiogenesis, which would itself entirely rewrite the field of astrobiology. Even a lesser discovery involving our own distant relatives here on earth having become independent from the necessity of certain chemicals by which to maintain their DNA would increase the percentage of planets on which we could expect to find extraterrestrial life, in addition to its major implications for a range of other fields.
Coincidentally, new observations of the manner in which other galaxies may be structured differently than our own have caused scientists to revise the estimated number of stars in the universe upwards by about three times what was thought just recently. This doesn’t change the variables of the Drake Equation, which only concerns the probably and extent of advanced life in the Milky Way Galaxy, but it does provide greater chances of life and civilization elsewhere.
Meanwhile, I’d like to reproduce a comment I added below regarding the more practical implications of our current inability to find other civilizations despite the assumption that once established, such things might be expected to spread perpetually and thus be somehow known to us already:
The interpretation of the Fermi Paradox as evidence that advanced life is rare does not take into account the possibility that sublimation tends to become an option for a civilization at some point and that such an option is widely considered desirable and is thus undertaken. Personally I think that the tendency is that, as a civilization reaches our current point and goes beyond, it becomes capable of destroying itself due to the proliferation of advanced technologies among its individuals and factions, but if it manages to survive, it reaches the possibility of sublimation and takes it as a safeguard against the continuance of that dangerous dynamic. Once sublimation occurs, the civilization is now safe from all dangers, even presumably the heat death of the universe.
I would add that a short-term aversion of the risk undergone by a civilization such as ours which is fast reaching the point at which even small factions could obtain the means to destroy the entire race could be achieved by way of a sort of enforced stasis – a feudal, non-technological policy enforced in such a way as that it cannot be easily reversed. Such a tactic would neutralize the possibility of racial self-destruction but it would also leave the civilization vulnerable to other space-faring entities. The questions that a civilization would have to answer before implementing such a policy would include whether or not they would prefer a more or less guaranteed existence from then until the point at which the nearest star burns out or it is overrun by a hostile outside force, or would instead prefer to take the riskier but potentially far more rewarding option of continuing into an unknown future that would end either in self-destruction or its opposite: the eternal existence that would be afforded by sublimation.