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Water/Complex Carbon Found In Distant Solar System

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the hello-hello-hello-is-there-anybody-out-there dept.

Space 210

TheHulk writes: "Complex carbon molecules and water, which are key ingredients for life, have been found in the dust and gas around distant stars. The findings boost the theory that the cosmic stew of life is common in the universe."

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210 comments

Re:Doesn't prove anything (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#413980)

Alien one:
Hmm... there's plenty of silicon and sulphur dioxide around here, and I have yet to discover any sign of life...

Alien two:
Well, it can't be on the third planet... I mean, silicon wouldn't even be liquid at surface temperatures... Try the next star system...

Re:Why is it? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#413981)

Scientists are searching for "life as we know it" because it's the only life we know. I would be very difficult for them to search for a system of life that we are completely unaware of.

Re:I'm betting... (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 12 years ago | (#413982)

Haven't you ever seen "Contact"?

Wow, Contact was a documentary? Here I thought it was wildy inaccurate fiction. Silly me.

Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.

Re:Proving the obvious (3)

bluGill (862) | more than 12 years ago | (#413984)

Agreed. Imangine there is a civizization 10,000 light years from Earth devolping at the same rate and time as humans. We would be unable to detect their television even if their transmitters were more powerful then ours and on and ideal frequency for communicating between star systems. Those television shows are still 9,920 years from reaching earth. Now if they are just as war like as us you can assume that nobody on either planet will be able to detect them. A war big enough to destroy civilization in the next 9,000 years isn't exactly unlikely.

It is possibal that many civilizations have rose and fell over the years, and earthlings arrived at radio reception too late to detect the transmissions from the last one, but too soon for the next one. Note that because of the slow speed of light it is possibal for the transmission of the first civilization to not reach earth yet, while the transmissions from a latter one have gone by, and all three civilizations have missed each other.

Of course if someone devolps enough space travel to havea self sufficant colinies in different star systems it is less likely that we have missed them. (Then you have to account for the possibility that earth is a self sufficant colony of a now long gone civialization, though that lack of remains tends to rule that out.

Poll (1)

awa (4952) | more than 12 years ago | (#413989)

Did anyone notice the poll on the sidebar? They ask which strategy for finding extraterrestrial life could be most fruitful. Get back on the page and vote!

It's a shame they did not include two obvious choices in the poll, though:
  • Chanting barefoot in the dessert until they come to get you.
  • Asking CowboyNeal

Re:We were CREATED (1)

awa (4952) | more than 12 years ago | (#413990)

And then you could also state: "Why do we spend gazillions on other kinds of research when the money would be best used to solve world hunger" or something like that.

To me it is a matter of width vs. depth. We need to answer all kinds of questions, if we all focus on just _some_ issues all kinds of interesting and important matters would never get found out.

Just my 2 devaluated cents.

Re:Proving the obvious (1)

Darkstorm (6880) | more than 12 years ago | (#413991)

People often point to the lack of communication from other worlds as proof (or at least evidence) that we are alone.

I wonder if the other forms of life don't use a different form of communications. If a life form developed with direct mental communications or the chemicl communication (like in some insects) then our frequencies shot out in space would mean nothing to them. They may be mentally projecting thier greetings to us be we are not equiped to recieve.

Who knows?

Probabilities of life... (3)

shaka (13165) | more than 12 years ago | (#413996)

This sort of findings make me more and more suprised of people who still don't think there are foreign life forms in the Universe.

Each finding suggests that life is probably a common thing in our Universe, since, with the findings of other solar systems with reasonably sized planets and even, as here, water, points out the conditions of the creation of life.

Given the vast number of stars out there, even a tiny percentage of life-friendly planets makes it really probable of lots of life in every galaxy.

Thing is, can we contact them? Can we travel to them, and they to us?

Imagine finding out that there is (almost surely) life everywhere, but not being able to make contact. Hope not.

Re:I'm betting... (1)

Teancom (13486) | more than 12 years ago | (#413998)

Religous zealots *refuting* the assertion that there is life on other planets??!??? Haven't you ever seen "Contact"? It's *scientists* that laugh at SETI and other attempts to look for extraterrestrial life. Religous *nuts* are all for alien life, as they would almost immediately transform aliens into "god-like figures". Now, as a religous person myself, (i.e., I go to church every Sunday and pray regularly) I think it would be the epitome of arrogance to think that God brought this galaxy into being, let alone the Universe, simple for one dinky planet on the outer edges of the Milky Way. I mean, that's ludicrous :-)

Much more likely is that what is going on here is that same as has been going on with other worlds since the beginning of time (as we know it), and will probably continue on long after Earth is slagged into molten lava when the Sun novas. Anybody who believes in a real God, not an "all encompassing spirit that surrounds and binds us" (nods to Yoda), will admit that we are not alone in the Universe. It is pure and utter hubris to think otherwise.

/me apologizes for Mozilla's screwed up formatting

OT: Re:I'm betting... (1)

Teancom (13486) | more than 12 years ago | (#414000)

Yes, the Force was a synonym for God in Star Wars, and a lot of people believe in that sort of God, i.e., one that is unknown and unknowable. However, as one of those literal minded people ;-), I *do* believe that God was a man, and went through the same process we are going through (i.e., life, love, and death).

To take this *completely* off-topic (hence the title change), I would submit that if God is truly our "Father in Heaven", the *only* long-term goal that he could have is to help us become like him. A lot of religous people get nervous at this point B-) The Eternal Plan that I envision includes an family that stretches back into infinity, with every generation striving to help it's children achieve the same status it has reached, with the children being us, but also God before us, and his parents before him. I can't imagine anything else that fits my premise, which is that God loves us, he is our spiritual Father, and that he is real, made of flesh and bone.

Well, there goes my carefully built up karma hoard :-) And to think I got all the way up to 15....

Oh, and the omnipresent thing is something thought up by Catholics, not something that is actually in the Bible (IIRC). In case you couldn't tell, I'm not Catholic B-)

Components of life do not life make! (4)

anomaly (15035) | more than 12 years ago | (#414002)

Discovery of the components of life does not imply that life is plentiful.

If I had all the components of a car (not assembled) I would not have a car until they were placed in the right order, with the right alignment, and the right torque applied to them.

Simply discovering car parts (and what has been discovered is the raw material of car parts, not the parts themselves) does not indicate that we should find 'cars' in the universe.

It's possible - and even more likely than if those parts didn't exist - BUT there's more required than what has been found.

Stanley Miller's experiments proved that having the right component materials in 'ideal' circumstances doesn't even give the building blocks of life.
(Dang chirality!)

I'm not saying that life like ours doesn't exist elsewhere in the universe, just that it this discovery doesn't mean that it does.

Life is hard. Creating life is REALLY hard.

--Anomaly
Now comes the part where I lose credibility with those of my readers who are closed-minded.

God loves you and longs for relationship with you. If you want to know more about this, please contact me at tom_cooper at bigfoot dot com

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

rw2 (17419) | more than 12 years ago | (#414003)

Who knows?

We do. Communication requires a carrier. We use photons because they travel at light speed. There is not any evidence that SUSY or strings will shake up the fundemental requirement that information travels on matter. Thus we know that the idea of mental projection in the absence of projecting some 'thing' (e.g. photons) is a looser.

Further, the idea that low power intra-planet transmissions could take place between extra-terrestrials is interesting, but the high power needed for societal communication or worse yet inter-stellar communication could somehow be released from carbon based life is a similar no go.

--

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

rw2 (17419) | more than 12 years ago | (#414004)

That's an assumption based on our own solar system and the stars we can see. We've yet to find planets in a system that resembles our own

Only because we don't have equipment with enough sensitivity to find earth size planets in any orbits, much less distant ones like ours.

(in fact scientists are rethinking the standard solar system model because of it)

No they are rethinking it because of the wierd orbits of the 'jupiters' they are finding. Not because of the absence of 'earths'.

So yes, assuming we're the only ones out here is jumping to conclusions, but so is assuming the universe falls neatly into the Heliocentric solar system model, don't you think?

No.

I think that expecting that the vast number of stars that are like our own with no near orbit Jupiters don't have a significant percentage with small approx 1 AU orbit planets is, well, anti-Heliocentric. I thought I made that clear. :-)


--

Re:Hubris? (2)

rw2 (17419) | more than 12 years ago | (#414005)

Citing "hubris" as a reason to believe in life on other planets is pretty lame. Would it be hubristic to believe there was no life in the rest of the Solar System?

Yes. That was my position. It would be hubristic to believe that we are alone.

Concerns about hubris are really just the inductive principle: things around here are probably average. But note the "probably". Induction is a good way to come up with a new hypothesis, but calling the output "obvious" is a fallacy.

Ok. My theory is obvious and the fact that people don't see that is because of their hubris. As you say, the fact should be proven and I agree 100% on that. Somehow that thought in my head was lost in the translation to paper.

As for intelligent life: intelligence isn't some kind of "ulimate endpoint" of evolution

As for intelligence. I never said that the life elsewhere would be intelligent. Though I did say that in the absence of abundent life it was 'interesting' that the only place that it arose (here, of course) it would become intelligent.

I'd be the first to argue that the vast majority of life outside of earth was not self aware. (an easy bet since it's true here as well...)

--

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

rw2 (17419) | more than 12 years ago | (#414006)

I suppose it's not at all possible that the 'thing'(e.g. photon-like) is something undiscovered by human scientists thus far?

Yes, that's exactly right.

With the exception of a fringe group of WIMP researchers it is widely excepted that we know about all the particles that exist at normal energies. We've verified that research with research into many particles that don't exist at normal energies.

You got me with the whole spelling thing though. You're right, I can't spell. Why memorize what can be looked up. (and I'll give you a shiny new nickle if you know who to attribute that to)

--

Re:Hubris? (2)

rw2 (17419) | more than 12 years ago | (#414007)

Let me get this straight. If I said to you "I think that Earth is the only life-bearing planet in the Solar System" you would call me hubristic?

No. I'm a dork who missed the solar system reference while trying to post and work at the same time.

Sorry.


Something was lost here, too. If your theory is obvious, why do you think it needs to be proven?


Because I want to be a research scientist and need funding... :-)

No, as I said in the very first line of my post I'm aware that the unexpected sometimes happens. That's why we do experiments to verify. I'm just saying the hubris comes from believing in the 10 angstrom slice that was left behind after occums razor cut through the evidence and said, 'geez guys, why would you seriously consider a lonely universe theory in the almost complete absence of any evidence to support it'.


--

Proving the obvious (5)

rw2 (17419) | more than 12 years ago | (#414008)

Look, I'm all about remembering there is a shadow of a doubt. As an active reader of bottomquark [bottomquark.com] I see the headlines outside of my own experience, and that sometimes corrections are made in theories.

But really. We are an average planet around an average star. The hubris required to think that we are along in the universe is almost unmeasurable.

Life is plentiful. The chemistry needed for life is all over the place and we have a planet that provides fantastic evidence that once a molecule is able to replicate itself then life pretty much explodes. There is no reason to believe that something unique happened here to create that initial set of circumstances.

People often point to the lack of communication from other worlds as proof (or at least evidence) that we are alone. Hogwash! We haven't heard from them because there are invariant rules in the universe. This lack of communication is much better evidence that faster than light travel is insurmountable than it is that somehow in the great sea of chemistry that is the universe *we* managed to defy the odds and not only create life, but multicellular life. And not only multicellular, but thinking. And not only thinking, but self aware and communicative. Those are long odds, eh?

Still, if this country (or planet for that matter) was scientifically litereate enough to understand all that I guess poliglut.org (shameless plug) wouldn't need to exist to straighten folks out... ;-)

--

Water and complex carbon with planets nearby. (3)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 12 years ago | (#414012)

We don't have to wait. 50 percent of stars [bbc.co.uk] like ours probably have metallic planets.

A survey of middle-aged stars within 350 light years found that half of them were emitting light that showed metals were present in the top layers of the stars. That suggests that metallic dust, asteroids, and planets fell into the star. Not all that stuff falls in, so there are planets around a bunch of those. Planets that formed a long time ago.

Humans mating with aliens? (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 12 years ago | (#414014)

This isn't star trek, folks, where everything has two legs and can actually mate with one another.

I thought that if two animals can successfully mate, then they are considered the same species?

If humans can mate with Star Trek "aliens", then those aliens are human!

Re:We were CREATED (1)

Future Linux-Guru (34181) | more than 12 years ago | (#414015)

Intelligent design seems unlikely?

You're reaching...and it's on things you don't understand. Things you don't understand mean a HIGHER intelligence than yours is needed to decipher them.

Re:Proving the obvious (5)

bskin (35954) | more than 12 years ago | (#414019)

But really. We are an average planet around an average star. The hubris required to think that we are along in the universe is almost unmeasurable.

Well, there are certainly a few things that seem unusual about our planet. That big moon being one of them. But then again, like everything in life, i suspect that the planet that exactly fits the norm is more unusual than all the ones that don't quite.

People often point to the lack of communication from other worlds as proof (or at least evidence) that we are alone. Hogwash! We haven't heard from them because there are invariant rules in the universe. This lack of communication is much better evidence that faster than light travel is insurmountable than it is that somehow in the great sea of chemistry that is the universe *we* managed to defy the odds and not only create life, but multicellular life. And not only multicellular, but thinking. And not only thinking, but self aware and communicative. Those are long odds, eh?

People always seem to forget that if there is other life out there, that it'd most likely be *completely* different from us. Not in a looking funny kind of way, in *every* way. To the point that most likely the biggest challenge in finding other life in the universe will be recognizing it as life. Even if other beings have life, why would they think anything like us? This isn't star trek, folks, where everything has two legs and can actually mate with one another.

The fact that there's no communication means nothing. Who says that another species would *want* to communicate? Who says they would ever develop tools, much less a desire to travel across the universe? Remember, the insects are for the most part far better adapted to this planet than we are.

So what.. (2)

Coleco (41062) | more than 12 years ago | (#414022)

I remember writing a paper about life in space and reading paper where scientists had found ATP (adenosine triphosphate, a source of energy), ubiquidous and necessary for life on Earth.. Furthermore that on early Earth that the surrounding environment was the only source of ATP. Early primative life could not produce their own ATP, the ability to synthasis ATP as an energy source evolved later. Also I think that there is evidence of RNA in space.. I'm not sure about that though.

Finding carbon rings in space is nothing new. These Nasa scientists are reveiling their lack of knowledge about biology getting all excite about finding benzene and water in space. The central paradigm of molecular biology (DNA->RNA->amino acid) would seem to indicate that the first protolife was in the form of RNA, which can join without the help of enzymes.. RNA itself can fact can act as a enzyme. Amino acids, were probably created 'de novo' by the organism or incorporated into the organism later..

Doesn't prove anything (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 12 years ago | (#414030)

There's plenty of carbon and water around here, and I have yet to discover any sign of life...

Key ingredients dictated by chemistry (3)

Stickerboy (61554) | more than 12 years ago | (#414032)

Carbon is the lowest molecular weight element that easily forms complex chains. This is important for two reasons:

1. Because it's a lower molecular weight, from simple statistics a lot more carbon exists in the universe than similar elements (like silicon). Because it's a lower molecular weight, the sheer size of the electron orbitals doesn't interfere with molecular bonding.

2. "Foobarium", unless it has a tetrahedral organization like carbon, probably won't form the complex chains necessary for life. And since everything above silicon doesn't form chains due to weak molecular bonding, "foobarium", barring a revolution in the basic principles of life, doesn't exist. There are no silicon life forms on Earth because silicon chains break down in the presence of oxygen.

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

brogdon (65526) | more than 12 years ago | (#414035)

"But really. We are an average planet around an average star. The hubris required to think that we are along in the universe is almost unmeasurable." That's an assumption based on our own solar system and the stars we can see. We've yet to find planets in a system that resembles our own (in fact scientists are rethinking the standard solar system model because of it). So yes, assuming we're the only ones out here is jumping to conclusions, but so is assuming the universe falls neatly into the Heliocentric solar system model, don't you think?


--Brogdon

Why is it? (3)

brogdon (65526) | more than 12 years ago | (#414036)

Why is it that when scientists are scoping out the universe for life, they're always looking for the things that make our form of life possible? Just because we've observed the forms of life around as being carbon-based doesn't mean that's the only option, does it?

I'm reminded of back when scientists were sure that all life on this planet was based in some way on the photosynthesis cycle. Plants use the sun to make their energy, animals eat the plants for energy, decay puts materials back into the soil for plants to use as raw materials, and they engergize the whole system once again. They had this set in their minds as the paradigm of life, and then one day someone found organisms at the bottom of the sea living off the energy of a vent in the sea floor (chemosynthesis). Blew their minds.

Anybody else a litle nervous about us searching space looking for our own form of life? Remeber in Stranger in a Strange Land when the scientists decided there couldn't be any life on Mars because there wasn't any oxygen? Let's learn from our Sci-fi, guys! :)


--Brogdon

Cosmic Stew (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 12 years ago | (#414039)

I'm going to be very disappointed it I fly half way to the other side of the galaxy and the only thing that there is to eat is a dust cloud full of complex carbon molecules and water.



"Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"

Re:Cool! (1)

mach-5 (73873) | more than 12 years ago | (#414040)

No, but I bet whatever OS they do use is open source. I'd like to get a copy of AlienUX for my box at home.

Re:Key ingredients for life? (1)

ahodgson (74077) | more than 12 years ago | (#414041)

Anyone who can "see" Earth would know there's life here. Free oxygen in the atmosphere is a dead giveaway.

Re:Whoa.. (1)

ahodgson (74077) | more than 12 years ago | (#414042)

Talk to 4 or 5 reporters and ask them what a comet is and how the tail forms.

You'll probably understand the scientists' perspective after a few minutes.

Re:Probabilities of life... (1)

John_Prophet (78703) | more than 12 years ago | (#414043)

Of course, the same people that make such statements also demand -absolute- proof that God exists.


Hmm. Let me paraphrase a very wise man [ramakrishna.org] who said:

How can we believe that GOD spoke to Moses on the mountain unless GOD speaks to us as well? Belief without evidence is not religion. It is better to be an athiest than to believe without seeing.

(That being said, this guy truely believed in GOD. Draw your own conclusions.)

-The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

John_Prophet (78703) | more than 12 years ago | (#414044)

Thus we know that the idea of mental projection in the absence of projecting some 'thing' (e.g. photons) is a looser.

I suppose it's not at all possible that the 'thing'(e.g. photon-like) is something undiscovered by human scientists thus far? About a thousand years ago we would regularly 'bleed' people to release 'bad humours' that were keeping them from being well. If, at that point, someone had proposed that microscopic 'germs' were the real cause, they probably would've been told that such ideas were also the 'looser' [sic].


-The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)

Re:I'm betting... (2)

John_Prophet (78703) | more than 12 years ago | (#414045)

. Anybody who believes in a real God, not an "all encompassing spirit that surrounds and binds us" (nods to Yoda), will admit that we are not alone in the Universe.

Thanks for mentioning Yoda. It makes my response on-topic (since religion is off-topic, but star wars is ALWAYS on-topic).

I always took the "FORCE" of the Star Wars series to be the exact same thing as "GOD." They're both symbols for the unknown (and unknowable) forces that guide us and shape our reality. The only difference I see in the concept of GOD and the concept of FORCE is that many literal-minded religious people tend to think of GOD as being a person, which doesn't make much sense when you consider all the other forms of life that are not even remotely human. (Plants, other animals, insects, bacteria, etc.)

Besides, if GOD (a symbol) is really omnipresent and infinite, how could GOD be anything BUT an "all encompassing spirit that surrounds and binds us?"


-The Reverend (I am not a Nazi nor a Troll)

Correction (1)

MicroBerto (91055) | more than 12 years ago | (#414049)

"Complex carbon molecules and water, which are key ingredients for life..."
As we know it!

Mike Roberto
- GAIM: MicroBerto

Key Ingredients for Life *RANT* (2)

_iris (92554) | more than 12 years ago | (#414050)

There is an open minded post. The phrase "key ingredients for life" should be "key ingredients for life on this planet".

Re:Key ingredients for life? (1)

pasti (98345) | more than 12 years ago | (#414055)

Not really...

You see, the reason why organic molecules are carbon compounds is because of the peculiar structure of carbon's electron orbitals. It'd be a long explanation, and I can give it only in Finnish so I won't go into details here. I suggest you go looking at britannica.com or something if you are interested.

Re:Aminoacids and water (1)

pasti (98345) | more than 12 years ago | (#414056)

Erm, none of the matter found on Earth was created in our Sun. All of it comes from a star (or stars) that once blossomed and then exploded. And because we can find uranium and other heavy substances here on Earth, the star has been one of those larger ones that went up in a supernova once upon a time.

On a side note, I don't know how you can describe the act of crunching coffee solids and frying them and then pouring hot water on them as being "completely random". Moreover, the coffee solids themselves are organic. (Or did I miss your point?)

Animo Acids != Life (4)

Life Blood (100124) | more than 12 years ago | (#414059)

I hate to be the voice of the devils advocate, but we need a lot more than animo acids to show that there is life on other worlds. Simple organic chem experiments show that given the right elements, its pretty easy to get animo acids. Finding them is actually no big surprise.

The hardest part of the whole abiogenesis equation that we need is the formation of simple life from its ubiquitous amino acid building blocks. We essentially need some way for the building blocks to logically result in the creation of a castle through either random collisions or some other mechanism. This is the difficult part and some advances have been made in looking at organic chemistry in Zero-G. The problem is that we are still orders of magnitude away from getting a living and more importantly reproducing cell that natural selection requires for further evolution.

In short, don't count your eggs before their hatched because we still have a long way to go. We really don't know how abiogenesis occured on earth yet, so to start saying that its occuring all over the universe may be a bit of a stretch.

Re: cool! (2)

Anonymous._.Coward (119202) | more than 12 years ago | (#414064)

It's from an early 90's Sega Genesis game with a badly translated intro (from Japanese to English). "All your base are belong to us [allyourbase.net]" is just one of the (many) gramatical errors the translators made:
In A.D. 2101
War was beginning.
Captain: What happen ?
Operator: Somebody set up us the bomb
Operator: We get signal
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on
Captain: It's You !!
Cats: How are you gentlemen !!
Cats: All your base are belong to us
Cats: You are on the way to destruction
Captain: What you say !!
Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time
Cats: HA HA HA HA ....
Cats: Take off every 'zig'
Captain: You know what you doing
Captain: Move 'zig'
Captain: For great justice

Re:We were CREATED (1)

pcb (125862) | more than 12 years ago | (#414067)

They'd rather look millions of miles away than into the things on Earth that are currently unexplored.

A troll, but...

Why can't they do both? Why one or the other?

--PCB

Aminoacids and water (3)

mauddib~ (126018) | more than 12 years ago | (#414068)

From what I've read from the article, aminoacids, complex carbonstructures and water are the key elements to life (at least life as we know it). Consider the following points:

1) A solar system is a complex entity with a lot of different stages in the amounts of particles, temperature and type of molecules
2) There is a big energy source around, capable of creating almost all of the lower weight atoms.
3) Because of the energy source, there is a lot of different entropies in the system

Consider these facts, and add the key element "time". Time is the main actor in evolution, allowing more complex elements to be formed.

It's no so strange that there is water around a lot of (early) solar systems. I would find it strange if time didn't create aminoacids yet.

Let's make an parallel with real life. Take the following ingredients:

1. Time
2. Coffee and hot water (energy sources)
3. A coffee mug

Make coffee, put coffee in mug and wait a little. Voila, you'll get white stuff on your coffee although the surroundings where completely random.

Okay, what you're going to say is: this is completely logical, nature have made a way to use all energy available. But can't we stretch such a thing into the large, solar system-sized area?

I'm really wondering, but I think the most important key elements are there with every solar system.

Re:Proving the obvious (1)

ErfC (127418) | more than 12 years ago | (#414070)

It's true that most of us are pretty sure there's other life out there, but we haven't seen it. It's always nice to gather more evidence for the theory, even if the theory seems "obvious".

Besides, this is also interesting news because these "life ingredients" were found in the gas and dust around stars. Nobody is exactly sure where our life ingredients came from -- whether they formed spontaneously on Earth or came down from space -- so this is more evidence for the "space" theory.

-Erf C.

Whoa.. (3)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 12 years ago | (#414073)

"The water released when these planets form may collect into oceans and lakes," Bergin said. "Those bodies not incorporated into planets may become what we call comets."

I love it when scientists speak to reporters as if the reporters were 7th graders in an earth sciences lab.

"That's what we in the scientific community like to call, 'a beaker' Johnny. Now please put it down before you break something."

tcd004
The Guts of the Pentium 4! [lostbrain.com]
Dont' click here unless you want stock photos. [lostbrain.com]

ET isn't going to be calling any time soon... (2)

sckeener (137243) | more than 12 years ago | (#414075)

Paraphrasing Steven Hawkings on the chance of intelligent alien life visiting earth:

Odds are that intelligent alien life is in a position to communicate with us is remote. On the galactic scale intelligent alien life probably developed millions of years before us or they just crawled up out of the primordial swamp. Don't expect ET to phone....

No harm in looking though...but keep it in perspective...

Sterling

Where are the protestors? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 12 years ago | (#414078)

The DHMO [dhmo.org] should be all over this one.

Next thing you know, it'll be hydroxyl acid rain.

John

Re:Proving the obvious (1)

10.0.0.1 (153985) | more than 12 years ago | (#414081)

You're right, I can't spell. Why memorize what can be looked up. (and I'll give you a shiny new nickle if you know who to attribute that to)

Shit, you could at least spell nickel right.

Re:Probabilities of life... (2)

seanmeister (156224) | more than 12 years ago | (#414082)

This sort of findings make me more and more suprised of people who still don't think there are foreign life forms in the Universe.

Hehe.. there's some well-documented research that shows that foreign life forms exist right here on Earth! Of course, 'foreign' sorta depends on what country you originate from...


Sean

Galactic Politics. . . . SNARFHOCKERS! (1)

ishpeck (160581) | more than 12 years ago | (#414084)

This reminds me of the latest episode of The Maggott Show [paingiver.com]. We are, after all, new to these interstellar politics things.

And in related news... (2)

CarrotLord (161788) | more than 12 years ago | (#414085)

Scientists discover Beer and Pizza in distant galaxies, along with signs of Caffeine in various forms. It seems that it is possible, or even likely, that there either is, was or will be, vast quantities of Geeks in Space...

rr

Science and Religion... (2)

CarrotLord (161788) | more than 12 years ago | (#414086)

are like Computers and Cooking -- they have no business with each other. The difference is that Scientists think they can apply what they know to religion, and religious people think they can apply what they know to science. A Pastry Chef would not try applying his/her cooking knowledge to a Kernel Patch, and a Samba coder would not try applying his/her C knowledge to a pasta dish...

I sigh in your general direction.

rr

Re:Maybe the evidence for life is obvious. (2)

Cyclopedian (163375) | more than 12 years ago | (#414088)

You're pretty paranoid aren't you?

Besides, all this interstellar poltics doesn't matter now, Earth is slated to be demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. The plans have been in the Alpha Centauri office for hundreds of years.

Time to start looking for the hitchhiker's guide.
-Cyc

So long, and thanks for all the fish

"We are not alone." (1)

flicman (177070) | more than 12 years ago | (#414090)

"That's in the room!"
"It's reading right, man, it's reading right!"
"Maybe YOU'RE not reading IT right!"

Fuckin' Aliens.

beer in space (5)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#414092)

Well, a while back there was the story about ethyl alcohol being found floating free between the stars. This, combined with complex hydrocarbons, brings this classic to mind ( I wish I knew who the author was so that I give proper credit):

This week, a million fraternity brothers rushed to join NASA. The reason: scientists have discovered beer in space.

Well, not beer exactly. But they did find alcohol: ethyl alcohol, to be precise, the active ingredient in all major alcoholic drinks (antifreeze Jell-O shots, quite obviously, are exempted from this category). Three British scientists, Drs. Tom Millar, Geoffrey MacDonald and Rolf Habing, discovered this interstellar Everclear floating in a gas cloud in the contellation of Aquila (sign of the Eagle, the mascot of Anheuser-Busch! Hmmmmm).

Millar and his compatriots have estimated the size of this gas cloud at approximately 1,000 times the diameter of our own solar system; there's enough alcohol out there, they say, to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer. These guys are British, mind you; if you were to translate this in terms of American beer (which the British, with some justification, regard as fermented club soda), the amount of potential brewski just about doubles.

In human terms: remember that double-keg party you threw at the end of your Junior year in college (the second Junior year)? Imagine throwing that same party, every eight hours, for the next 30 billion years. You'd STILL have beer left over. And boy, would YOUR bathroom be a mess! Simply put, no one could ever drink 400 trillion trillion pints of beer, except maybe Buffalo Bills fans.

The sheer volume of all this alcohol begs the question of how it managed to get out there in the first place. Despite the simplifying effect it has on the human brain, ethyl alcohol is a reasonably complex molecule: two carbon atoms, five hydrogen atoms, and a hydroxyl radical, all cavorting together in beery camaraderie. It's not a compund that is going to spontaneously arise out of the cold depths of space. It can lead to speculation: What is this cloud?

1. It's God's beer. After all, He worked for six days creating the universe, and on the seventh day, He rested. And after you've had a hard week at the office, don't YOU grab a beer? Since man is made in God's image, it could be that this cloud is the remaining evidence of the first, and best, Miller Time.

2. It's Purgatory ("400 trillion trillion bottles of beer on the wall, 400 trillion trillion bottles of beer! Take one down, pass it around, three hundred ninety-nine septillion, nine hundred ninety-nine sextillion, nine hundred ninety-nine quintillion, nine hundred ninety-nine quadrillion, nine hundred ninety-nine trillion, nine hundred ninety-nine billion, nine hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine, bottles of beer on the wall!")

3. Proof of an undeniably highly advanced but chronically dipsomaniac alien society. This particular theory is shaky, however: it's reasonable to assume that if the aliens were going to construct a nebula of alcohol, they'd also have large clouds of Beer Nuts and pretzels nearby for snacking. Advanced spectral analysis has yet to locate them.

The truth of the matter, however, is far more prosaic. In the middle of this gas cloud is a young and no doubt quite inebriated star. As the star heats up and contracts, sucking the dust and gas of the cloud into a smaller area, complex molecules form as a result of greater interaction between the elements. Ethyl alcohol forms on small motes of dust in the cloud, and then, as the motes angle in closer towards the star and heat up, the alcohol is released from the motes in gaseous form. And there you have it: an alcohol cloud. Or, as Dave Bowman might say, "My God! It's full of booze!"

Enough with the science lesson, you say. Just tell me how to GET there! Sorry, Chuckles. You can't get there from here. The gas cloud (which, by the way, has the utterly romantic name of "G34.3") is 10,000 light years away: 58 quadrillion miles. Even if you hijacked the shuttle and headed out with thrusters on full, by the time you got there, the guy in Purgatory would be done with his tune. You'd have had time to work up a powerful thirst, but you'd also be, in a word, dead.

No, the Space Beer Cloud will have to wait for the far future, when men can leap through the universe at warp speed. One can only imagine what they will do when they get there:

Captain Kirk: My....GOD! Sulu! What....is....THAT?

Sulu: It's a free floating cloud of alcohol, sir.

Kirk: And we've just run out of Romulan Ale! Could it be a trap, Bones?

Bones: Damn it, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a distiller of fine spirits!

Kirk: We need that booze! But if we fly through that cloud, we'll be too drunk to drive!

Spock: May I remind you, Captain, that I am a Vulcan. We are a race of designated drivers.

Kirk: Well, all righty, then. Spock, drive us through! Bones and I will be out on the hull. With our mouths... open!

To boldly drink what no man has drunk before.

Then where are they? (4)

DeadVulcan (182139) | more than 12 years ago | (#414094)

A number of people have commented that these types of molecules are only the key ingredients for life as we currently know it. This is fair enough.

However, here's my point of view. In our own solar system, right here in our back yard, there is a very wide variety of different environments: the surface of every planet and moon is, in places subtly, and in places completely, different from each other.

As far as we can see (so far) only Earth has life in our solar system. To me, this is suggestive. If you really believe that life can form in completely different environments, why didn't they form in any of the completely different environments that exist right next door?

Of course, this is not proof; it's perhaps not even corroborating evidence. However, it's enough to make me believe (tentatively) that Earth-like conditions really are the only kind of conditions in which life can form in our universe.

I'm open to the possibility that wildly different life could form elsewhere in the universe, and I know that there must be places in the universe that have environments that are so different as to be incomprehensible, but hey, we have to base our opinions on what we know currently. If we totally throw open the gates of possibility, then we can never come to any conclusion about anything.

--

Yup, /. likes to cover organic molecules in space (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 12 years ago | (#414099)

Not to forget to mention we found sugar in space [slashdot.org].
Organic molecules seem to be very common in space.

Re:Doesn't prove anything (2)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 12 years ago | (#414102)

I'm a moderator right now as was going to mod this up for being funny but need I to straighten out something. Simply because there was an Xfiles episode showing life from silicon doesn't mean it's possible. Biochemistry is so complex and shape specific that simply having the same number of bonds as carbon and water will not make them react with other substances in place of carbon and water. Isoelectricity doesn't mean compatibility.

But it is kind of funny on an irony scale.

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

micromoog (206608) | more than 12 years ago | (#414104)

Alternatively, what if we are aware of the carrier, but not aware that anything is encoded in it? The sound of a modem is hiss (one would guess noise if one didn't know otherwise), but it's actually full of Slashdot and pr0n. "They" could be using encoding we can't imagine (for example, 1 bit every 400 years may make sense to "them").

Believing the desired (3)

skoda (211470) | more than 12 years ago | (#414106)

(sigh)

I'm agnostic regarding the existence of extraterrestrial life. And while there are some interesting discoveries that show that the possibility of ET life is not unfounded, we are not yet at the point of saying, "Life is plentiful" with regards to any location except our own planet.

What do we have?
- Indirect evidence of planets. Note, there is not yet any direct observation of planets. Rather, they are inferred from the detecteed motion of stars, which is best explained by the presence of giant planets (e.g. Jupiter and larger). (I'm not trying to suggest that the scientists are wrong; just trying to make clear what we know and have have directly observed).

- Evidence of carbon and water molecules in the further reaches of space.

- Discoveries of extreme-condition life; the microbes that live in extreme environmental conditions.

Well, good, it's generally believed that those are necessary ingredients for life, and we find that life will survive in pretty radical situations. But life this does not guarantee. Just because we find evidence of yeast and flour, it doesn't mean that there is bread nearby.

Something that's been bothering me for a while, as a scientist, is my (possibly incorrect) understanding of the study of biological evolution. The physical sciences require both observations and predictions. Most scientists, I believe, hold that a theory is not truly useful unless it can be falsified. That is, a theory must predict something that can be verified or shown incorrect, e.g. the rate of descent of an object is independent of its mass.

However, when it comes to the formation of life and its development, my impression is that there is a lack of falsifiable predictions. There are not predictions of the sort, given chemicals X & Y we will see life Z emerge; or, given environmental conditions A, life Z will develop into related form Z'. Instead, it is largely a matter of noting, conditions A existed when life Z' lived. Therefore, Z' must have been caused by A.

This is not 'complete' science. So then, perhaps some of the more biologically-minded folk out there can answer my question:
"Regarding the study of life and its genesis and development, are what are the falsifiable predictions?"

IANAB (I am not a biologist), so I may be way off base here, but if so, please point me in the direction of some useful info. I'd appreciate it.
-----
D. Fischer

Re:Life in Cosmic Stew (1)

abdulwahid (214915) | more than 12 years ago | (#414109)

Wow, the paradoxical world of Christianity...Jesus created the himself and the world he lived in...hmmm...is that really what you guys believe in?

Of course, not all religions have such a closed nature and restricted thought process as Christianity. For example, in the Quran God says He is the Lord of *all* the worlds. Which indicates we are not alone. Also, the Big Bang is described in the Quran and of course the fact the the world is round and the orbits of the planets. Science is just about catching up with what the Muslims have known for 1,400 years.

Re:Life in Cosmic Stew (2)

abdulwahid (214915) | more than 12 years ago | (#414110)

Yes, it is a shame that people read the absurd things that they write on sites like infidels.org. They always seem to quote sources that the majority of Muslims agree are unauthentic or they quote some translation which are far from the original meaning. What the Muslims have always been strict on is that the Quran is in Arabic and that you can attempt to translate the meaning of the words but you can't translate the Quran itself. As a result, I can take-up your challenge because I have access to the Quranic Arabic and can clearly see the mistakes that they make on infidel.org. I can only presume that the poeple who wrote the articles on infidel.org a). don't know Arabic and b). haven't read any of the books of the scholars from where we take our explanation of the verses in the Qur'an.

Re:Life in Cosmic Stew (1)

fishfucker (217763) | more than 12 years ago | (#414111)

wow - doesn't posting anonymously sorta detract from your faith in jesus?

fisfhcuerk.

see you in hell, pussy-boy.

Yay, water and complex carbon in a dust cloud. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 12 years ago | (#414116)

Now we only have to wait 1 billion years for planets to form. I'm not too sure that the human race is that patient.

Complex Carbon molecules & H20. (1)

Darth RadaR (221648) | more than 12 years ago | (#414117)

The findings boost the theory that the cosmic stew of life is common in the universe.

It's pretty common here [fbcusa.com] on earth too.

Re:I'm betting... (1)

Darth RadaR (221648) | more than 12 years ago | (#414118)

Admittedly, there are problems (such as not having sufficient local gravity to pack the interesting molecules together under correct pressure/temperature conditions to react), but if you have a mix of water and organic molecules, it does beg the question.

So that explains why my Seamonkeys [sea-monkey.com] would never come to life.

Re:Probabilities of life... (1)

Chaswell (222452) | more than 12 years ago | (#414119)

I find it so interesting that scientists believe we can communicate with distant alien life forms. Maybe they should make a little more progress with the dolphins and chimps of this planet. Shouldn't they expect similar results?

- chaswell

Re:Proving the obvious (2)

Chaswell (222452) | more than 12 years ago | (#414120)

can't we just use the philotic twinings on our ansibles? It really appears to be the most promising form of communication across galactic distances.

-chaswell, who doesn't even know if he was trying to be funny.

I hope we discover life soon (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 12 years ago | (#414127)

And I hope it's totally different from any thing we've ever seen. That way, the Creationists will finally shut the hell up.

Re:Hubris? (3)

OlympicSponsor (236309) | more than 12 years ago | (#414132)

Me: "Citing "hubris" as a reason to believe in life on other planets is pretty lame. Would it be hubristic to believe there was no life in the rest of the Solar System?"

You: "Yes. That was my position. It would be hubristic to believe that we are alone."

Let me get this straight. If I said to you "I think that Earth is the only life-bearing planet in the Solar System" you would call me hubristic? What if we visited all the (solar) planets and found no life? What if I said "I think Earth is the only life-bearing planet in the Earth-Moon system"? Is it hubristic to think that humans are the only intelligent being on Earth?

"My theory is obvious and the fact that people don't see that is because of their hubris. As you say, the fact should be proven and I agree 100% on that. Somehow that thought in my head was lost in the translation to paper."

Something was lost here, too. If your theory is obvious, why do you think it needs to be proven? Or do you mean "it's obvious but possibly false" (kind of like Aristotle's theories of motion)--in which case, why is hubris the only answer for non-adherents to your cause? Couldn't it be that we see through the "obviousness" to the truth?
--

Just how "distant" are they? (4)

OlympicSponsor (236309) | more than 12 years ago | (#414133)

It could make all the difference. Ideally, they are about 3 billion years distant. That way, if we start NOW in our light-speed ships, it'll give time for these "complex carbon chains" to evolve into dinosaurs and then be killed off by an asteroid. When we arrive, ta-da! strategic oil reserves!

Hey, it's more intelligent than what we're doing NOW....
--

Hubris? (4)

OlympicSponsor (236309) | more than 12 years ago | (#414134)

Let me start by saying that I believe in life (although maybe not intelligent life) exists on other planets. BUT

Citing "hubris" as a reason to believe in life on other planets is pretty lame. Would it be hubristic to believe there was no life in the rest of the Solar System? If not, why not--it the same as your argument about the universe. How about if I believed ours was the only planet that had produced "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"? After all with all the "billions and billions" and stars out there with their "obvious" life, surely some other intelligent entity has generated these same tones. To believe otherwise would be hubristic.

Concerns about hubris are really just the inductive principle: things around here are probably average. But note the "probably". Induction is a good way to come up with a new hypothesis, but calling the output "obvious" is a fallacy. Why don't we just go see? At the very least it can show us WHICH planets the life is living on before we go haring off in all directions.

As for intelligent life: intelligence isn't some kind of "ulimate endpoint" of evolution--evolution has no goals. Our ancestors happened to have had selection pressures that resulted in descendents that are intelligent. Elephants happened to have had pressures that result in trunks. Would it be hubristic to think that elephant trunks are unique in the universe? Who knows what conditions will obtain at another location. I sure hope there's intelligent life out there, but I don't think it's "obvious".
--

Re:Science and Religion... (2)

RareHeintz (244414) | more than 12 years ago | (#414137)

I think your metaphor is interesting, but it ulitmately breaks down, because unlike cooking and kernel hacking, science and religion do attempt to address similar knowledge domains (such as the creation and fate of the universe, for example). It's just that one of them has no mechanism for handling the introduction of new physical evidence.


--

I'm betting... (3)

RareHeintz (244414) | more than 12 years ago | (#414138)

...that we'll be detecting amino acids somewhere outside our own solar system in the next 10 years. In the meantime, it'll be fun to watch religious zealots and other anti-science nuts scramble to (yet again) "refute" the assertion that life could be elsewhere.

One thought came to mind: I wonder about the possibility of life (defined loosely as collections of molecules that reproduce) is possible in the stellar medium, without having to have a planet as a substrate? Admittedly, there are problems (such as not having sufficient local gravity to pack the interesting molecules together under correct pressure/temperature conditions to react), but if you have a mix of water and organic molecules, it does beg the question.

Any thoughts?

Insert obligatory Andromeda Strain reference here.

OK,
- B
--

So does this mean... (2)

OpCode42 (253084) | more than 12 years ago | (#414144)

...that if I find potatos growing naturally in a field, that I could theorise that somewhere there are packets of potato chips growing too?

-----

What???? (1)

tewwetruggur (253319) | more than 12 years ago | (#414145)

Yeah, ok, nice. Someone has some lovely theory. No, I'm not going to go check it out... it basically sounds like sience fiction. If I want to read Sci-Fi, I know where to find it.

On to my point... why do people just assume that other life would be anything even remotely close to what we are? By attempting to group "lifeforms" into pre-set "civilizations", it shows that the author is already applying our standards to others. What if an alien civilization is remotely removed from anything we could ever comprehend, that we'll never even see it, because we don't know to look for it? Who says whether or not they are "advanced"... because that is again applying our standards. I'm probably being really vague, so I apologize. But reading this seemed to flip a switch - especially after reading some of the other comments that completely help to refute this Kardashev guy.

Oh, well. There you have it, not quite my 2 cents, but it is at least the lint from my pocket.

Calvin and Hobbs (4)

jeff13 (255285) | more than 12 years ago | (#414146)


Bill Waterson said it best...

The only evidence that there is intelligent life else where in the universe is the fact they have never come here.
______
jeff13

Cool! (2)

Ananova (255600) | more than 12 years ago | (#414147)

It's nice to hear that there is extraintelligent life, but I think the question every /. reader wants answered is:

Do they run Linux?

If we find that the space aliens run Windows NT, it's bad news - although they'll be very pretty to look at when they're coming towards Earth, they'll crash just as they get to the surface.

Also, what's the uptime on their spaceship? Did they notice any improvement in stability after recompiling the kernel?
--

Re:We were CREATED (1)

Mercaptan (257186) | more than 12 years ago | (#414148)

Ironic that your pronouncement contains nothing to back it up.

I point to my appendix, the duckbilled platypus, my inability to breathe underwater, professional wrestling, trash DNA in the genome, fossil evidence, and the human retina as counters to your argument for intelligent design. There is enough evidence of completely random and dumb shit going on that intelligent design seems unlikely. We have all kinds of strange and useless stuff which appears as a result of the weird and wooly path our ancestors took to get us here.

Now I do agree that there is plenty of stuff on Earth that remains unexplored, but I do not believe that it is the only place to look for answers.

Re:Why is it? (2)

Mercaptan (257186) | more than 12 years ago | (#414151)

It is difficult to fully imagine what other non-carbon-based forms of life are like. We're somewhat aware of what makes up our life and what signals and indications to look for. We understand that complex organic molecules can be chained together in a water-borne environment to form simple chemically active proto-cells and so forth. This provides us with a proven set of search parameters. It works here, so it could work elsewhere.

While we can conjecture about life-forms made from silicon or whatever, it remains purely theoretical. There isn't too much concrete evidence about what we should look for from a silicon-based life-form.

Think of it as a go-with-what-you-know strategy.

Key ingredients for life? (2)

ceesco (259588) | more than 12 years ago | (#414154)

I think the point that we're missing here is that carbon and oxygen are the key ingredients for life as we know it. Now, it's way too early and I'm way to sober to wax philisophical, but isn't it arrogant to say that all life depends on carbon? How do we know that some other race/species/whatever out there is looking at Earth saying "hmm, no huge deposits of foobarium there, there must not be any life?"

Re:Key ingredients for life? (2)

Faulty Dreamer (259659) | more than 12 years ago | (#414156)

In the same token, isn't it arrogant to presume that life developed in a different way from life on Earth would be presumptious enough to assume that they should be looking to life similar/equal to their own. The chances are the other life forms, especially life forms advanced enough to find/look at Earth in detail from a great distance away (by travel or by instruments), would be a little more open-minded than what twentieth-twenty-first century man is. I would hope that by the time we are able to reach far enough away to go look at other planets in detail that we would have evolved past the "what we know is all that can be" garbage that is believed today.

But what do I know, I'm just an idiotic man, a product of the society I bash. That kind of sucks too.;-)

Re:We were CREATED (2)

Faulty Dreamer (259659) | more than 12 years ago | (#414157)

I believe this discussion has been had here before, but:,

It is abundantly obvious that the 'design' of the human body, or even some of the 'lesser' creatures is extremely wasteful. So, if we were designed (and that is one mighty gargantuan if, we were designed by an imbecile that had absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing.

Oh, and your attempt at saying that because we don't understand means it must be a higher intelligence is really ridiculous. That is religious posturing, nothing more. I don't understand how the hell anyone could stomach Britney Spears, does that mean she was created by a HIGHER intelligence? Very doubtful. But, go ahead and live with your delusions. That's probably easier than questioning the things around you.

Questions are hard, I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself.

Re:Proving the obvious (1)

digidave (259925) | more than 12 years ago | (#414158)

This isn't star trek, folks, where everything has two legs and can actually mate with one another.

I've always though it interesting that so much of life on Earth has developed so similar. Take the Mammals group for instance. Mammals tend to have 4 legs (sometimes used as arms), similar diets, similar mating techniques, etc.

While it's natural that a lot of life elsewhere will be totally different from here on Earth, it is also quite likely that a similar planet with a similar sun will produce similar life. Earth has produced a wide variety of life over its lifetime. Dinosuars, fish, insects, mammals, amphibians. It's not entirely unlikely that an animal group similar to one of those will develop elswhere. If what we're looking for is water, carbons, amino acids and other building blocks of life on Earth, we will probably find similar life.

Re:Key ingredients for life? (1)

pogen (303331) | more than 12 years ago | (#414162)

isn't it arrogant to say that all life depends on carbon?

Perhaps, but it's not unreasonable to assume that carbon-based life is much more likely than any other. Carbon can form a staggering variety of chemical bonds, the most important of which is (arguably, to life on Earth) CO2. Many have looked to silicon as a possible substitute, but an SiO2 molecule has four unpaired electrons (since it does not form double bonds as does CO2), thus instead of becoming a gas like CO2, it tends to become quartz :-)

In other words, people look to carbon for a reason. This is not to say that life cannot exist based on some as-yet-unimagined chemistry, but carbon seems the best candidate.

Re:I'm betting... (1)

grayhaired (314097) | more than 12 years ago | (#414173)

My understanding is that glycine has been found outside the solar system. It's a pretty simple amino acid, but it's an amino acid.

The Molecules of Life. (3)

grayhaired (314097) | more than 12 years ago | (#414174)

Complex carbon molecules have been found for ages in space. I recall some 10-20 years ago when they found glycine (an amino acid) and trumpeted that as an advance. Now more recently they've found signs of benzene in space, so I guess it's time for the ol' hip hip hurrah again.

Water is a common element in space. No news there.

Re:Why is it? (1)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 12 years ago | (#414175)

I've frequently seen various sci-fi shows blasted for constantly portraying aliens as being more or less humanoid. For TV shows, that's understandable--who's going to watch a show where the protagonist is an amorphous blob? I really wonder, however, just how many people have a humanoid figure with aural communication in mind when they think about alien life, or how many attach *something* characteristic of Earth life, say, eyes or whatever. Arthur C. Clarke didn't; in "2010" he wrote about living gasbags that dwelled in the hostile layers of Jupiter. How could we ever have developed communication with such life? Perhaps we would try some basic form of visual presentation, flashes of light or semaphore (ha ha). But where could we go beyond that? I find myself hoping that the aliens are far, far above us on scales of intelligence, technology, etc. so that *they* can decipher our languages, which, on cosmic time scales, are really quite young. I see all sorts of xenophobic objections having to do with them taking advantage of us, but I think that's the risk we'll have to take if we ever want to say stuff besides "Hello, I'm here."

Maybe the evidence for life is obvious. (2)

Heidi Wall (317302) | more than 12 years ago | (#414177)

In the form of red dwarves.

In the 1960's, a well respected russian astronomer known as N Kardashev came up with the Kardashev system of determining alien civilisations.

  • Kardashev Type I Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a planet.
  • Kardashev Type II Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a star. ie, a Dyson sphere.
  • Kardashev Type III Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of an entire galaxy. Probably the rarest and most powerful.

The scary thing is that a Dyson Sphere would look almost exactly like a red dwarve star. It could well be that many phenomena we see in space and interpret as natural phenomena are in fact megascale engineering projects of distant civilisations.

Another possibility is that these distant civilisations use Matrioshka Brains, big computers in the form of Dyson Spheres, surrounding a star. Everybody would be uploaded into this environment, and would become as gods.

Problem is, we are pumping out radiation all the time, from our television transmitters and our mobile phones and so on. It is like the cheeping of a new born bird, we are alone and naked and letting everyone know where we are. There is no reason to suppose that such civilisations would be friendly. I think we should take enormous and difficult steps to quiet down out interstellar emissions. It is time to start playing interstellar politics.

More info can be found here [plantetp.cc], a very interesting page on this subject by an esteemed author.
--
Clarity does not require the absence of impurities,

high probability for life? (1)

shd99004 (317968) | more than 12 years ago | (#414180)

It seems as the chance for life to form in the universe is getting better all the time. We have now discovered planets orbiting other stars, as well as solar systems in the process of being formed, that is, discs of gas and dust around young stars. And now this, complex organic molecules.

Could life perhaps be a most natural part of the universe? Or, is it only the possibility that is everywhere, but the right conditions are rarely met?

I for one hope that life is very much common in the universe, and that we one day can establish contact with another civillization. It would indeed be the greatest and most important discovery in the history of mankind.

Re: cool! (1)

All Ya' Base (318375) | more than 12 years ago | (#414183)

SETI should start targeting areas that have carbon and water. :)

I just hope big mean space aliens don't come from one of these places and say:

Maybe the evidence for life is obvious! (3)

Hiedi Wall (318437) | more than 12 years ago | (#414185)

In the form of red dwarves. In the 1960's, a well respected russian astronomer known as N Kardashev came up with the Kardashev system of determining alien civilisations. Kardashev Type I Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a planet. Kardashev Type II Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of a star. ie, a Dyson sphere. Kardashev Type III Civilisation. One which has utilised all the resources of an entire galaxy. Probably the rarest and most powerful. The scary thing is that a Dyson Sphere would look almost exactly like a red dwarve star. It could well be that many phenomena we see in space and interpret as natural phenomena are in fact megascale engineering projects of distant civilisations. Another possibility is that these distant civilisations use Matrioshka Brains, big computers in the form of Dyson Spheres, surrounding a star. Everybody would be uploaded into this environment, and would become as gods. Problem is, we are pumping out radiation all the time, from our television transmitters and our mobile phones and so on. It is like the cheeping of a new born bird, we are alone and naked and letting everyone know where we are. There is no reason to suppose that such civilisations would be friendly. I think we should take enormous and difficult steps to quiet down out interstellar emissions. It is time to start playing interstellar politics. More info can be found here, a very interesting page on this subject by an esteemed author. -- Trust in God, but tie your camel -- Old Persian proverb.
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