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September 13, 2011

New Discoveries Or A Missed Opportunity?

A recent article on the BBC states that a new batch of ‘exoplanets’ have been discovered, 50 to be exact, by a group of astronomers in Chile. Exoplanets are planets that are outside our Solar System and are the main area in which we are searching for extraterrestrial life. This most recent project uses a telescope that searches for signs of gravitational ‘wobble’ to discover the location of planets (as mentioned in an article below.) They have found one specific planet amongst these 50 in the ‘habitable zone’ of its star, somewhere in the orbit of the star where life could be sustained, and have started their search for oxygen or liquid water. Why is there an assumption that whatever life we might find is going to function biologically in the same way that we, as humans, do? Is there not a possibility that somewhere in the Universe there exists life that does not rely on oxygen and water to exist? Although the presence of oxygen and liquid water might suggest life-forms similar to humans, by ignoring planets that do not have these elements are we missing an opportunity to find the so far elusive ‘ET?’

Here is a link to the original articel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14890143

Posted by arevuo at September 13, 2011 11:22 PM


Well the laws of the universe should be universal in application. The fact is that our planet is the only reference point as to life could exist in the vast unknown. almost every bit of life we know about derived from the abundance of oxygen and water. However there have been some interesting developments that may change our search. a quick search for methane ice worms turns up this pen state article that gives us hope for titan sea life.
But until we find extraterrestrial life in any form we will just have to live with the romantic dream.

Posted by: larken at September 30, 2011 10:40 PM

You raise a very interesting question about why we are only searching for life that functions biologically similar to life on Earth. I think that it is very possible that if life is found on other planets they may survive on other elements, but like Professor Miller said in lecture, I think the reason we search for Earth-like life is that we know for sure that life can survive in Earth-like conditions, whereas we don't know if it can survive in other conditions.

Posted by: ghanafin at September 30, 2011 11:00 PM

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