Mathematician Ian Stewart asks SPTNK “How would alien creatures do mathematics living on a plasma star?”
Archive for the ‘X is for Xeno’ Category
The story which originated in the Sunday Times and soon spread around that world, has been denied.
Malaysian astrophysicist Mazian Othman has officially denied media reports that she was selected by the UN to represent earthlings in their future dealings with aliens.
“It sounds really cool,” Othman told The Guardian, “but I have to deny it.”
via The Guardian
Astrophysicist Mazian Othman, photo via Wikipedia
The United Nations is set to appoint astrophysicist Mazian Othman as Earth’s first alien contact. Othman is currently the head of The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (UNOOSA)
UNOOSA is the United Nations office responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses for outer space.
The UNOOSA conducts international workshops, training courses and pilot projects on topics that include remote sensing, satellite navigation, satellite meteorology, tele-education and basic space sciences for the benefit of developing nations.
It also maintains a 24-hour hotline as the United Nations focal point for satellite imagery request during disasters and manages the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response. (UN-SPIDER)
UNOOSA prepares and distributes reports, studies and publications on various fields of space science and publication on various fields of space and technology application and international space law. Documents and reports are available in all official languages of the United Nations through the UNOOSA website.
UNOOSA is located at the United Nations office at Vienna, Austria.
via New York Post
Photo via flickr by Vermin Inc
At the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences first ever conference on alien life in November 2009, Lord Martin Rees, a leading cosmologist, astrophysicist, president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England, told the audience that he believes the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.
“They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology,” Rees suggested.
During the conference that Rees chaired entitled ‘The Detection of Extra-terrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society,’ Rees claimed “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
Father Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and one of the organisers of the conference, said: “As a multiplicity of creatures exists on Earth, so there could be other beings, also intelligent, created by God.”
However, Frank Drake, the founder of SETI and Drake’s Equation, told the conference that satellite TV and the “digital revolution” was making humanity invisible to aliens by cutting the transmission of TV and radio signals into space. The earth is currently surrounded by a 50 light year-wide “shell” of radiation from analogue TV, radio and radar transmissions. According to Drake, digital TV signals would look like white noise to a race of observing aliens.
Although the signals have spread far enough to reach many nearby star systems, they are rapidly vanishing in the wake of digital technology, said Drake. In the 1960s, Drake spearheaded the conversion of the Arecibo Observatory to a radio astronomy center. As a researcher, Drake was involved in the early work on pulsars. Drake also designed the Pioneer plaque with Carl Sagan in 1972, the first physical message sent into space. The plaque was designed to be understandable by extraterrestrials should they encounter it.
Milan Cirkovic of the Astronomical Observatory in Belgrade, points out that the median age of terrestrial planets in the Milky Way is about 1.8 gigayears (one billion years) greater than the age of the Earth and the Solar System, which means that the median age of technological civilizations should be greater than the age of human civilization by the same amount.
In 2002, Lord Martin Rees sat with Sputnik Observatory, exploring the possibility that there could be alien nanoscale life on Earth that we wouldn’t recognize:
It’s worth looking for primitive life on Mars, on the frozen oceans of Europa, maybe in other places. But I’m also very much in favor of attempts to look for evidence for any artificial signals or any artifacts from some intelligent life beyond the solar system. And efforts are being made by a number of groups, particularly SETI Institute in Mountainview, California, to search systematically for particular kinds of signal that might be manifestly artificial. Now, of course, these signals would be very hard to detect and the nearest sources of them would be many tens of light years away. So if you detected a signal and try to send one back, it would take many, many decades. And so there’s no scope for snappy repartee, as it were, if we detect a signal, we would have time to make a measured response. But even if we detect no signal, then we can’t conclude that there’s no life or even no intelligent life out there because only a particular subset of such life may be sufficiently like us to be sending out signals that we could recognize. There could be all kinds of intelligent life out there that we wouldn’t recognize. There could be tiny nanoscale life here on Earth that we wouldn’t recognize. And so there are all kinds of possibilities.
Lord Martin Rees reasoned further the possibility that there could be another universe less than a millimeter away from ours, that we don’t know about:
If you look at what happens in our own universe, what seems to have happened is that it started off very hot and dense, then it expanded, then it cooled down. And as it cooled, it developed structures in it. Instead of being almost uniform, globs of different scale condensed out and they turned into stars and galaxies and, around some of those stars, planets formed. On some of those planets, the mysterious steps that lead to simple life got started. And that led eventually to complex life. So all those processes seem to have happened in our universe and it’s taken about 14 billion years to get to its present state. Now, if we look beyond the universe we can see, we have to ask, could there be other cosmos beyond what astronomers observe? And there are lots of ideas. One is that the big bangs sort of sprout one after the other, in a sense, in what some people call an eternal inflation theory. There’s another fascinating idea that these other universes exist separated from us in some extra spatial dimension. There could even be another universe less than a millimeter away from ours which we don’t know about, because that small distance is measured in some fourth spatial dimension which we can’t move in because we’re trapped in our three. Rather as if you imagine a whole lot of bugs on a big sheet of paper, their two-dimensional universe, they might be unaware of another set of bugs on another sheet of paper. So there may be other universes separated from ours in an extra spatial dimension.
Photo via flickr by Pink Sherbet Photography
Whether life exists elsewhere in our universe is a longstanding mystery. But for some scientists, there’s another interesting question: could there be life in a universe significantly different from our own?
A definitive answer is impossible, since we have no way of directly studying other universes. But cosmologists speculate that a multitude of other universes exist, each with its own laws of physics. Recently physicists at MIT have shown that in theory, alternate universes could be quite congenial to life, even if their physical laws are very different from our own.
In work recently featured in a cover story in Scientific American, MIT physics professor Robert Jaffe, former MIT postdoc, Alejandro Jenkins, and recent MIT graduate Itamar Kimchi showed that universes quite different from ours still have elements similar to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and could therefore evolve life forms quite similar to us. Even when the masses of the elementary particles are dramatically altered, life may find a way.
Modern cosmology theory holds that our universe may be just one in a vast collection of universes known as the multiverse. MIT physicist Alan Guth has suggested that new universes (known as “pocket universes”) are constantly being created, but they cannot be seen from our universe.
In this view, “nature gets a lot of tries — the universe is an experiment that’s repeated over and over again, each time with slightly different physical laws, or even vastly different physical laws,” says Jaffe.
Some physicists have theorized that only universes in which the laws of physics are “just so” could support life, and that if things were even a little bit different from our world, intelligent life would be impossible. In that case, our physical laws might be explained “anthropically,” meaning that they are as they are because if they were otherwise, no one would be around to notice them.
via MIT News
In a conversation with Sputnik Observatory, Astrobiologist David Grinspoon explores the notion that there might be other carbon-based life elsewhere:
There, I think, is a possibility of many kinds of life that might be radically different from what we’re looking for because we only know how to look for what occurs to us. And a large part of what occurs to us comes from what we see looking around the Earth. So we assume it’s carbon-based, we assume it’s water. Those might be good assumptions. I believe there is other carbon-based life elsewhere. I don’t know if it’s all that way. But when you come to the possibility of other chemical basis for life, if you think of life as just maybe some kind of self-propagating, evolving system that forms in certain conditions of complexity and flow and chemical interaction, then maybe it doesn’t have to be carbon-based – in which case I can imagine the possibility of life in much hotter, much colder places: on stars, in interstellar clouds, in comets, in the atmospheres of planets very different from our own. And then, if you want to get even farther out, maybe you can talk about life at very different scales. What about interactions amongst subatomic particles that somehow have some kind of complexity where civilizations rise and fall in a nanosecond that we never know about because they’re inside of our particles? Or on a huge scale, galaxies that are somehow living, orbiting, sandwiches of things forming complexity. You can get pretty far out there if you wanted.
Most scientists suspect that there is simple life elsewhere in the universe. And if we ever did find alien life, it would undoubtedly lead to more profound questioning of who and what we are. And while the intelligence communities of major countries continue investigations that began during World War II, and SETI research is catapulted by the generous endowment of Microsoft’s Paul Allen, the notion that life will be found on another planet, or is carbon-based, is seemingly passé. Scientists are now speculating that life is more likely to be a few cells rather than a gray Kate Moss look-alike, and currently places like Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn; Jupiter’s moon Europa; the watery icy poles of Mars; Saturn’s large moon, Titan; or Jupiter’s moon, lo, are en vogue. Scientists have also come to the possibility that life may just be found on the surface of a plasma star, or inside a comet or an interstellar dust cloud. Or, perhaps, even life exists at different scales, inside or between the interactions of subatomic particles where civilizations rise and fall in a nanosecond. Whether or not alien life is discovered in our lifetime, to suggest we are alone in the universe in today’s open social world would be purely egocentric. And whether or not you choose to believe that aliens are already here on Earth, serving as our evolutionary helpers since the ’70s, well, that’s up to you.