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Is Extraterrestrial Life More Whimsical Than Plausible?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the eeeehhhlliott dept.

NASA 344

coondoggie writes "Princeton University researchers are throwing some cold water on the hot notion that astrobiologists and other scientists expect to one day find life on other planets. Recent discoveries of planets similar to Earth in size and proximity to the planets' respective suns have sparked scientific and public excitement about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds, but the expectation that life — from bacteria to sentient beings — has or will develop on other planets as on Earth might be based more on optimism than scientific evidence."

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Paywall ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811581)

is keeping us from discovering extraterrestrial life.

Re:Paywall ... (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#39811641)

Don't worry, finding an in depth article about astrobiology on *Network World* is even less likely than finding extraterrestrials on Mars.

Even better is that the submitter *works* for Network World - either he doesn't understand his own site's paywall, or it's one of the worst slashvertisements in a while...

Re:Paywall ... (3, Funny)

jdgeorge (18767) | about 2 years ago | (#39811837)

...either he doesn't understand his own site's paywall, or it's one of the worst slashvertisements in a while...

Well, it wasn't blocked by Adblock, so I'd say it works pretty well.
Wait... does that "disable Advertising" checkbox remove things like this?

Re:Paywall ... (5, Informative)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#39811719)

And it is a paywall to a blog. What kind of world are we living in these days? Anyway, I suppose this: https://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S33/52/89I01/ [princeton.edu] is the news the article was supposed to link to.

Re:Paywall ... (5, Insightful)

siddesu (698447) | about 2 years ago | (#39812333)

And having read the link, I can only say that my own statistical analysis shows with a high degree of confidence that every earth-centric or earth-is-unique argument made so far has been proven wrong. Therefore, expectations that this particular view will endure are probably based on optimism rather than evidence.

Summary: ETs are laughing at you. (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 2 years ago | (#39812253)

... but you can't always believe what they say.
  Dude, we just flew here in that saucer thing!
  Dude, we totally can't walk up stairs!
  It's a [tokes] Cookbook, man!
  Extoiminate! Extoiminate! Nyuk nyuk!

First post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811589)

There is life here anyway, in this thread!

Bad link (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811595)

Looks like the article is behind a paywall.

It's not Optimism, (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39811609)

It's statistical probability, you Philistine!

Re:It's not Optimism, (1, Funny)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39811643)

on the one hand, the Bible doesn't say anythinga bout other worlds, but on the other hand, I think God would wnat there to be many worlds. So, a tossup?

Re:It's not Optimism, (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811959)

We're talking Science here. Leave your absentee landlord out of it.

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#39811987)

What does your work of historic fiction have to do with this?

Why bring up some unrelated literature?

Re:It's not Optimism, (4, Insightful)

networkBoy (774728) | about 2 years ago | (#39812207)

If you are willing to stipulate that God exists this actually makes for an awesome thought experiment.
Would God, being omnipotent and omnipresent want multiple worlds of beings?
What if he was curious* as to silicon based life, that would appear to be incompatible with a world configured for carbon life, so he would need to spin up another world.
What if God wanted a world of fire to play with creatures for whom consciousness existed in the flickering of flames?
There appears to be no reason why he wouldn't want other worlds, of course there is also no reason why he would either.

Imagine the possibilities, something akin to the final scene of MiB where the galaxy is really in a marble being played with, maybe there are other marbles?

Whether or not you choose to believe is a decision only you can make, doesn't mean you can't have fun with various viewpoints. That said, I think the God talk on /. is the new troll. Guaranteed to get a response every time ;)
-nB

* Of course being omnipotent means there is no curiosity, as God already knows everything... Thus why bother with the first world (assuming that's us) in the first place?

Re:It's not Optimism, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811749)

It's statistical probability, you Philistine!

"The researchers used a Bayesian analysis—which weighs how much of a scientific conclusion stems from actual data and how much comes from the prior assumptions of the scientist—to determine the probability of extraterrestrial life once the influence of these presumptions is minimized."
Source [rdmag.com]

Re:It's not Optimism, (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39811871)

It's statistical probability, you Philistine!

"The researchers used a Bayesian analysis—which weighs how much of a scientific conclusion stems from actual data and how much comes from the prior assumptions of the scientist—to determine the probability of extraterrestrial life once the influence of these presumptions is minimized." Source [rdmag.com]

...possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds

Whoever said extraterrestrial life had to be "Earth-like?"

Thus is the fallacy of the analysis.

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812027)

earth like as in "wet and 'warm'."

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39812193)

Are you sure it's not Earth-like as in "carbon-based" or "oxygen-loving?"

I don't know, as the summary's reference article is paywalled.

AC's source makes no mention of the terms 'wet' or 'warm.'

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 2 years ago | (#39812273)

They've thought of this.

FTFA:

"Our analysis suggests that abiogenesis could be a rather rapid and probable process for other worlds, but it also cannot rule out at high confidence that abiogenesis is a rare, improbable event," Spiegel said. "We really have no idea, even to within orders of magnitude, how probable abiogenesis is, and we show that no evidence exists to substantially change that." ..also...

"It could easily be that life came about on Earth one way, but came about on other planets in other ways, if it came about at all. The best way to find out, of course, is to look. But I don't think we'll know by debating the process of how life came about on Earth."

Re:It's not Optimism, (5, Informative)

Tmann72 (2473512) | about 2 years ago | (#39811901)

Which means nothing. The primary focus of the argument was more specifically the fact that just because life here started so quickly doesn't mean its a good expectation that life occurred as quickly anywhere life is supportable in the universe. Perhaps we were a statistical outlier and we had life appear far faster than the average. The fact is we just don't know, but because we don't know we can't make the assumption that life is on every earth-like planet.

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | about 2 years ago | (#39812341)

Just as we can't make the assumption that life is on every non-earth-like planet. In fact making any assumption about extraterrestrial life whatever is pretty silly and certainly not science. More philosophy or religion than science. Perhaps a few hundred thousand years after we develop a practical interstellar space drive we will have some evidence upon which to base a conclusion. Until then the most scientific thing one can do in response to the question of life on other planets is to STFU. Which, for some reason these so called scientists chose not to do. Perhaps they are trying to get funding for some project of theirs.

Re:It's not Optimism, (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811983)

It's statistical probability, you Philistine!

"The researchers used a Bayesian analysis—which weighs how much of a scientific conclusion stems from actual data and how much comes from the prior assumptions of the scientist—to determine the probability of extraterrestrial life once the influence of these presumptions is minimized."
Source [rdmag.com]

Which amounts to, "my filter hasn't found any papers on extra-terrestrial life we've found yet, so clearly no evidence of extra-terrestrial life exists." I don't need a Bayesian filter to figure that one out, and it's actually pretty stupid to use one. We already know that we haven't found any life outside the Earth.

That said, the existence of life on Earth is all the evidence you need for life elsewhere. The chance of life arising is bigger than zero, and the amount of planets is large enough that for anything with probability not zero, it's going to happen more than once. The only valid question is just how full of life is the universe? Is it mostly lifeless or chock-full of it?

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

c00rdb (945666) | about 2 years ago | (#39812263)

This argument makes zero sense, you have no idea the chances of life arising, it COULD be 50 orders of magnitudes smaller than the number of planets. We've made some remarkable discoveries about the universe but really the reality is we don't know jack about most of its mysteries despite what anyone will tell you.

Re:It's not Optimism, (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#39812133)

It's statistical probability, you Philistine!

Heh. Well, to be fair, that probability is a measurement of what we don't know, not what we do know, so all of the elements used in determining how probable it is that ET life exists ends with something like "hopefully..."

The point I'm getting at is that 'statistical probability' is going to change a LOT once we start getting out there. In that case, it may very well be fair to call that 'optimism'.

We're all alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811611)

"We're all alone, we're all alone;
Behold the mystery, behold the mystery."

broken link (1)

Mini-Geek (915324) | about 2 years ago | (#39811613)

"Sorry!

You are not authorized to access this page..."

Sorry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811619)

You are not authorized to access this page.

Obama ate a dog. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811621)

Obama ate a dog.

Re:Obama ate a dog. (2)

ad1217 (2418196) | about 2 years ago | (#39812045)

How is that different from eating any other animal?

They found intelligent life on Earth? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811627)

In all seriousness, we haven't even got a foot on the next planet over. I think we can afford to not bicker and argue over the prospects for life elsewhere for a bit. Give science a chance to discover what it will.

Re:They found intelligent life on Earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811861)

I think we can afford to not bicker and argue over the prospects for life elsewhere for a bit. Give science a chance to discover what it will.

What you're calling bickering and arguing is how science makes those discoveries.

Re:They found intelligent life on Earth? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812247)

Anyone else have trouble reading that comment without hearing, "Let us not bicker and argue over who killed who"?

Broken link? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811629)

For once I tried to RTFA and apparently the sole link in the summary is broken?!
Just wow.

Some article links... (5, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | about 2 years ago | (#39811633)

...since the one in the story appears dead.

Expectation of extraterrestrial life built more on optimism than evidence
http://www.rdmag.com/News/2012/04/General-Science-Expectation-Of-Extraterrestrial-Life-Built-More-On-Optimism-Than-Evidence/ [rdmag.com]

Is the search for ET pie-in-the-sky fantasy?
http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/is-the-search-for-et-pie-in-the-sky-fantasy/ [futurity.org]

We Really Hope ET is Out There, But There’s Not Enough Scientific Evidence, Researchers Say
http://www.universetoday.com/94838/we-really-hope-et-is-out-there-but-theres-not-enough-scientific-evidence-researchers-say/ [universetoday.com]

Re:Some article links... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811707)

I see you are either currently unemployed or otherwise uninterested in your life. Please go back to the hole you crawled into for the last few years.

No one likes you or your bullshit. Go. The. Fuck. Away. Douchebag.

Re:Some article links... (5, Funny)

daveschroeder (516195) | about 2 years ago | (#39811755)

I see you are either currently unemployed or otherwise uninterested in your life. Please go back to the hole you crawled into for the last few years.

No one likes you or your bullshit. Go. The. Fuck. Away. Douchebag.

The depth of intelligent discourse, the subtle give-and-take of reasoned debate — these are the reasons I love slashdot!

Re:Some article links... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812179)

Did you just troll yourself to get karma points? Well played, sir, well played.

Re:Some article links... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39811821)

Sayeth the AC who apparently has nothing better to do than troll /.

Pot, may I introduce you to kettle.

A Counter-Comment Link (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811813)

Expectation of extraterrestrial life built more on optimism than evidence http://www.rdmag.com/News/2012/04/General-Science-Expectation-Of-Extraterrestrial-Life-Built-More-On-Optimism-Than-Evidence/ [rdmag.com]

And yet there's a Slashdot user named mbone that repeatedly claims otherwise [slashdot.org] ... either he's an extremely well researched troll or he's on to something.

Re:Some article links... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811881)

I find it pretty stupid, to be honest.

By all counts, maths, physics, biology, chemistry, there is life anywhere else outside of Earth, period. Unless we really are in a magical fantasy world made by some bored deity playing Sims Universe.

Life develops easily with the right requirements, we know this from quite a lot of evidence. We even recreated genesis by accident, twice, and once on purpose just recently.
We see evolution right in front of us every day, and can even tweak it. We have been doing so for the past few thousand years with farming of crops and animals for the best traits, now we are doing it directly with DNA sculpting.
We know all the chemical and a considerable number of the biological interactions for life that make even the most basic life exist, and how easy it is for them to flourish given a food source.
We know that RNA and DNA are very easy and very stable structures to produce. (how the step from random chemicals to RNA world happened is still out there for now)
We are finding considerably more planets as the months go by, and even rocky ones now.
The solar system is huge, the galaxy is even bigger, the local cluster is MASSIVE, the universe as a whole is unfathomably big.
The maths and evidence quite clearly point to a very high percentage of there being life elsewhere.
In fact, it'd be better to state it as it is impossible for there NOT to be life out there. The numbers are just

It isn't just a hunch, it is basic math and rules that govern the whole of existence.
The only faith we have is faith that these laws exist far out there as well and that we aren't in a deities computer composed of bits.
We can only go with what we know, so it is almost certainly 99.9[repeating to a googol]% likely there is life out there. Complex, probably not as much, but almost certainly life regardless of complexity.
But one then wonders if non-complex life is even worthy of being called life and not just basic molecular interactions.
Would you call a Prion life? A virus? Some say yes, some say no. Either way, these are absolutely certain events outside of our little stars neighborhood.

Re:Some article links... (4, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | about 2 years ago | (#39812337)

"Life develops easily with the right requirements, we know this from quite a lot of evidence. We even recreated genesis by accident, twice, and once on purpose just recently."

Really? Can you provide a link? I've not heard this. I've heard that we've created environments SIMILAR to early earth -- and basic proteins developed... the BUILDING BLOCKS of life. But I haven't heard anything about creating life.

Unless you are talking about XNA research...

Re:Some article links... (2)

Burning1 (204959) | about 2 years ago | (#39812041)

Finding/communicating with extratarestrial life is an entirely different set of probabilities than the existance of extratarestrial life.

Not Authorized (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811657)

It's funny how many people we keep out of things, yet we desire to look for more.

The lack of evidence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811659)

is not absence of evidence

Re:The lack of evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811815)

Um, pretty sure the lack of evidence is indeed an absence of evidence. However, the first rule of tautology club is definitely the first rule of tautology club.

Life is like a Cockroach (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811679)

Life is Like a cockroach, where there's one, there's a billion. The whimsical part is the notion that we will ever interact with one another. The distances and natural laws just won't allow it.

Define Life? (1)

svendsen (1029716) | about 2 years ago | (#39811681)

This assumes all life must look like us. Why can't their be "life" on planets that would cook us alive? Pretty narrow view if you ask me.

Re:Define Life? (5, Funny)

Americano (920576) | about 2 years ago | (#39811769)

Because if life doesn't look like us, there's no point in finding it. Seriously, do you want to have a hot makeout session with a 5-limbed cross between a cockroach and a slime mold from Rigel 7 No, of COURSE you don't.

You'd much rather do a little heavy petting with a light-green hottie with blonde hair and 4 boobs from Proxima Centauri. If Star Trek (and the Secret Service) have taught us anything, it's that getting it on with hot chicks in other places is pretty much the only reason to explore.

Re:Define Life? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39812101)

If there's life on a planet like Venus, I think that would be pretty amazing and a whole lot of people would be interested in it.

Re:Define Life? (4, Interesting)

Burning1 (204959) | about 2 years ago | (#39812121)

The physical differences between Asian, Aferican and European decendents exist because of the time it took for our species to propogate around the world, isolation, enviornmental factors, boarders, politics, and the slow speed of travel at the time.

In the forseable future, humanity may spread to other planets via generation ships with pressures not unlike those faced by our genetic ancestors. The limited communication between colonies, limited travel opportunities, and enviornmental pressures between habited planets will probably mean that humans on distant stars will begin to take on traits that are very different than those of us who live on earth.

It's entirely plausable, and even likely, that as humanity spreads around the stars, we will evolve into something not unlike the aliens of star trek. In the future, there just might be a green woman out there waiting for you - someone Alian, but also someone human.

Re:Define Life? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812201)

That's an almost beautiful idea. Thank you for sharing it.

Re:Define Life? (1)

yoctology (2622527) | about 2 years ago | (#39812169)

You don't know an extraterrestrial culture until you have sex with them.

Re:Define Life? (3, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812185)

do you want to have a hot makeout session with a 5-limbed cross between a cockroach and a slime mold from Rigel 7

Oh, like your taste in women is so great.

Re:Define Life? (1)

itsdapead (734413) | about 2 years ago | (#39812073)

Why can't their be "life" on planets that would cook us alive?

Because meat tastes much better when it has been properly aged before cooking. Anyway, humans are full of saturated fats and artificial additives.

But seriously folks - its easy to speculate about forms of "life" beyond our imagination, but if you're talking about trying to find life on exoplanets simply by estimating their surface conditions or maybe, if you are lucky, a bit of spectroscopic data about the atmosphere then the only signs you could look for are the ones you know to be associated with "life as we know it" - temperatures around the triple point of water, surplus oxygen it the atmosphere etc.

Even radio signals rely on assumptions: we might be able to spot analogue signals from other planets, but we're only (ballpark) 100 years into radio and already we're switching to highly compressed digital formats that would be hard to distinguish from random noise. If that is "typical" then what are the chances than our nearest neighbors are at that very short window in their technological development? We'd be relying on them being monumentally stupid enough to deliberately broadcast easily-decoded signals saying "Here we are! We taste great flash-fried with qur'klozle sauce and fresg g'flona!".

eeeehhhlliott (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 2 years ago | (#39811693)

Whoever wrote the tagline for this piece should get a beer and day off. Well played.

Sigh... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39811703)

This is a case where the statement "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Yes, we have no evidence as of yet, but at the same time we have a sample size of exactly one, so trying to making any claim on the frequency or infrequency of life elsewhere in the Universe is utterly ludicrous.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811857)

We're alone crowd: "With all the stars out there, and all the many palnets orbitting them, we haven't found anything resembling our TV broadcasts, so we must be alone in the universe."

Pro alien civilzation crowd: "Of all the earth-like planets we have examined, 100% have complex life and civilizations, and we keep finding new stars that could host more earth-like planets."

Realist crowd: "It's an interesting question, but it doesn't matter unless we get an answer. It still looks like we're alone for now."

Extreme optimist: Transmits e-harmony profile toward Alpha Centauri.

Re:Sigh... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39811999)

Sensible Crowd: We're not even sure what to look for, we're not even sure of how abiogenesis occurred, so attempting to answer the question is extremely premature.

Re:Sigh... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812069)

Statistician: probably yes, but on the other hand...

heh.

However it's not premature to ask the question. You must ask the question before you begin to find out.

Can man \harness electricity needs to be asked before we could have cell phones.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812077)

Extreme optimist: Transmits e-harmony profile toward Alpha Centauri.

Nerd in parents basement: "Blue Chick's! Yeah!"

FTFY

Too many stars (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | about 2 years ago | (#39811715)

Personally, I just think about how many stars there are--especially in light of how many planets we are finding--and I can't help thinking life is common.

That being said, there still might not be any "near" us.

Re:Too many stars (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#39812055)

Personally, I just think about how many stars there are--especially in light of how many planets we are finding--and I can't help thinking life is common.

They say there are more planets in the Universe than there are grains of sands on all the beaches on Earth.

Oh, but it's most likely that we're unique among them all? All the geo/helio/etc.-centrisms are just human hubris projected upon the known world.

Re:Too many stars (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812083)

Common is a poor choice of words. You could have a million thrives space faring species in the universe, and it would still be rare.

Where is my flying car? (4, Insightful)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | about 2 years ago | (#39811721)

I think we are at a point where most adults have grown up their entire lives with the assumption that certain great discoveries and advancements will be made in their lifetime. Moon bases. Mars missions. Evidence (at least) of extra-terrestrial life. As these folks (I am one of them) hit the downward slope of their life expectancy (which itself hasn't seen the expected advancements), I expect much more wild speculation, straw-grasping and fallacious conclusions about what "must" exist.

If the universe is so immense that it is unlikely that extra-terrestrial life doesn't exist, then it is immense enough that we will probably never find it. Then there is the whole issue of whether that life evolved and died a billion years in the past.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of real problems to be solved and discoveries to be made here on Earth, if anyone is still interested.

Not saying don't look. Just saying be realistic.

Re:Where is my flying car? (1)

Keith111 (1862190) | about 2 years ago | (#39812171)

Considering that a large amount of our really cool consumer tech has been ported to us from space technology research I'm not sure I follow your logic.

no shit, sherlock (1)

sribe (304414) | about 2 years ago | (#39811723)

We really don't know what the odds are for life evolving, nor the factors that make it more or less likely except on the grossest scale. But as another post, not yet modded up still at 0 points out, the current lack of evidence for life is not evidence of lack of life.

SETI = Waste of Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811725)

Its entire budget should be reallocated to NASA.

Who the fuck cares? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811753)

We do research so we might find evidence that might support either side of the argument. Who the fuck cares if we don't currently have evidence to support realistic ET expectations.

I'm sorry but it seems like this article is nothing more than a "Don't get your hopes up". Which is useful because...?

So in summary... (5, Funny)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 2 years ago | (#39811765)

Princeton University researchers are [speculating] on the [speculation] that astrobiologists and other scientists [speculate] to one day find life on other planets. Recent discoveries [...] have sparked [speculation] about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds, but the [speculation] that life - from bacteria to sentient beings - has or will develop on other planets as on Earth might be based more on [speculation].

observable data set - 1 planet with life (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 years ago | (#39811791)

The science is severly limited by the fact our observable data set of worlds with life consists of a single sample.

It is vary hard to do science with a single sample.

Re:observable data set - 1 planet with life (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#39811891)

This. We can't even confirm or deny the existence of life on Venus or Mars.

Re:observable data set - 1 planet with life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812107)

Exactly, and we haven't even scratched the surface into testing other planets and moons within our own solar system. Hell, we haven't even touched the surface, let alone scratched it. We suck.

Re:observable data set - 1 planet with life (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812283)

Science starts with a single example.
It's hard to come to a conclusion with one sample. Other then life can exist.

wait until august (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#39811795)

the guy who thinks voyager soil samples show signs of bacterial life will know whether he's right or wrong by then.

Re:wait until august (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812217)

the guy who thinks Viking soil samples show signs of bacterial life will know whether he's right or wrong by then.

FTFY

The same old tirade about wishful thinking (2, Insightful)

tchernik (2494258) | about 2 years ago | (#39811811)

Nothing new here. Just the same old complaint of cognitive bias due to our desire to find someone else. Which does not change the fact that life, and even intelligent life are verifiable possibilities in the universe: we do exist, so the process can be repeated somewhere else. Unless you give up on the mediocrity principle and accept that Earth is special. Which from a scientific point of view increasingly seems not to be the case (with all the other confirmed extrasolar planets, some in the Goldilocks zone, for example).

Re:The same old tirade about wishful thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811899)

Exactly. So far, every planet we've explored that exists in the so-called 'Goldilocks' zone is inhabited by, not just life, but *intelligent* life. Why should we assume that the next one will be any different?

Re:The same old tirade about wishful thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811963)

Heck, we've found places on *our* planet which harbor life even though less than a decade ago, we'd have assumed life there was impossible. (See: extremeophiles)

In search of... (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 2 years ago | (#39811827)

It would seem that at least microbes or maybe plant life would be inevitable. As far as intelligent life... well, we haven't located any on Earth yet so I have my doubts.

Re:In search of... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812261)

We have buildings of steel and glass
we have put men on the moon
We have a machine on the cusp of leaving the solar system
we have mapped millions of other planets
We can travel faster the sound
We can talk across the globe in an instant

Don't tell me we aren't intelligent.

It's okay to say we don't know (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | about 2 years ago | (#39811831)

The uncertainties are so large around life that currently noone can call "we will find life for sure" whimsical or optimistic compared to "we won't find life elsewhere for sure". It's just as uncertain.

I suspect we will have more scientific evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811847)

...for extraterrestrial life once we find some.

I think we went from whimsical to plausible after the discovery of those deep underwater volcanic vents.

That expanded the potential environments enough that we just have to get some more planets under our belts. A task in its infancy.

Life *allways* finds a Way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811889)

An if they teach *Intelligent Design* at their schools they should be light years past our knowledge by now...

WRONG FIELD (1, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 2 years ago | (#39811961)

This guy is an astrophysicist, not an astrobiologist. Don't trust a chemist to talk about physics, you don't trust a geologist about climate science, and you don't trust a astrophysicist to talk about biology.

This is once again more moronic bullcrap that says other planets are not like earth, so life can't evolve on them.

Most of the universe is composed of dark matter. We know nothing about dark matter, so saying you won't find life there is like saying you don't think there is any thing in a closed box before you even shake it.

Doing so just makes a fool out of the arrogant doctorate that thinks his Phd in one field of science makes him an expert in all.

The basic fact is the astrophysicists always make the SAME mistake - assuming life has to be earthlike. The definition of life is very broad and does not require DNA, water, or any of the rest of the stuff the astrophysicists look at.

Captain obvious strikes again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811977)

"...has or will develop on other planets as on Earth might be based more on optimism than scientific evidence."

Of course it's optimism. Scientific evidence of life on other Earth-like planets with Earth-life like will only exist once we actually FIND some. Then there won't be any debate at all, except for the flat-earth and truther types.

Zero evidence, true, however ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39811989)

We have not found any life on any other planets. That means there isn't any evidence, but with trillians of trillians of trillians of planets, I put my bet on life elsewhere. Obviously, that number of planets is extremely low for the true count.

We know that life exists - it is all around us. There must be a planet similar to Earth around a similar star with similar protections. Life seems to happen everywhere here.

Whether we will ever actually find that life is doubtful. We are nowhere near interstellar travel and the best that we could accomplish today would take 2000+ yrs to get to the closest star, assuming the technology issues can be overcome. This assumes travel at the speed of the fastest man-made object in existence for the entire trip.

Actually it's based on statistics (4, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about 2 years ago | (#39811991)

The idea of finding life on other planets is actually based on statistics. There are literally billions of Earth-like planets in the universe. The chances are that conditions on at least some of those planets has given rise to life.

There is also a very good statistical chance that there are non-carbon life-forms on other planets.

So unless you've got a "God created the Earth" mentality, there being life on other planets is a foregone conclusion.

Does that mean we'll encounter life from other planets? Perhaps not. That depends on whether any forms of FTL ever prove feasible, beyond which there's the roll of the dice of the rarity of planets with life. The odds are you'd have visit and explore a fair number of dead worlds before you'd encounter one with life.

Only those who think we are "created in God's image" would stick their heads in the sand and claim otherwise. God has no image, and it's form is the universe itself. To think we look anything like the universe is ludicrous!

Re:Actually it's based on statistics (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812115)

" foregone conclusion."
hmm. probability approaching one.

Re:Actually it's based on statistics (4, Insightful)

Rostin (691447) | about 2 years ago | (#39812225)

The idea of finding life on other planets is actually based on statistics. There are literally billions of Earth-like planets in the universe. The chances are that conditions on at least some of those planets has given rise to life.

And what, if I may be so crass as to inquire, do you base that assessment on? The fact that "billions" is a large-seeming number? What if the probability of life (as we know it) forming on an earth-like planet is 1:10^12? The point of the article is that we simply don't know what that probability is, so arguments like the one you are making here are based on fantasy rather than evidence.

There is also a very good statistical chance that there are non-carbon life-forms on other planets.

Again: How do you know? Before, you were making a statistical argument from a sample size of one, which is bad. But now, since we know of zero planets that host non-carbon-based life, you are making an argument based on literally nothing but maybe old Star Trek episodes.

Re:Actually it's based on statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812317)

So unless you've got a "God created the Earth" mentality, there being life on other planets is a foregone conclusion.

Heck I have such a mentality (for some definition of 'create'), and even I feel that with the number of stars that we have observed with planets (few, surely, but all of them very close) that the proportion of stars with planets must be relatively high (ie. not approximately zero), the number of stars visible is very high, so the number of planets must also be very high. If there is even a one in a billion chance of life forming on a planet, there must be life one hundreds of planets.

ET? (1)

Lucas123 (935744) | about 2 years ago | (#39812033)

Sure, why not? Let's see, if an alien civilization discovered how to travel at the speed of light, and they lived in the nearest solar system with earth-like planets, then it's only 44 trillion kilometers or 4.4 light years away. I can see traveling for 4.4 years in a small spacecraft in order to pick up farmers and mechanics on earth and probe them.

--
No chance, English bed-wetting types. I burst my pimples at you and call your door-opening request a silly thing, you tiny-brained wipers of other people's bottoms!

Science (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 2 years ago | (#39812037)

I thought science was about forming a theory or hypothesis and then either proving or disproving it. You can't see gravity but it's there, Isaac Newton didn't discover it, but he started pondering the mechanism. Does not mean that the billions of years prior to that everything floated.

I think if anything it will make us redefine what is life, not to mention that it's going to be hard to prove or disprove life on other planets without evidence to support or lack or evidence to refute it, just because we don't find life on the first 100,000 planets doesn't mean 100,001 won't be teaming with life. Once earth was at the center of our solar system, we know that to be untrue now, we thought mental illness was caused by demons we know different now. To make the claim that we are the only sentient lifeforms in the entire universe is well beyond conceited.

born of soup, evolved, self-destructed... (1)

lkcl (517947) | about 2 years ago | (#39812053)

the problem that NASA etc. isn't really considering is that some of the planets they're looking at could well have had life borne out of the primordal soup, evolved to sentience, discovered genetic engineering, created plants and food crops that went out-of-control and destroyed the entire ecology and turned the entire planet into a barren wasteland... all hundreds of millions of years before NASA or anyone else took a peek at the barren rock that is left from a distance of billions of miles away.

so in other words, the article appears to have entirely missed the point that we're looking for *ecologically responsible* intelligent life on other planets that is sufficiently stable that they haven't blown themselves to shit or fucked their planet into oblivion.

my main worry right now is whether the present occupants of planet earth will be around long enough to be contacted *by* intelligent life on other planets.

if there's a god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812059)

if there's such a thing as god, why not think it's even more planned to be when to make acquintance with aliens, and how far they would be to not see until the time is right to.

why not think we're in the right place to not see aliens, if it were to be bad to know.

alot of things like that might be true, if there was a god.

Yup, it's crap (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 2 years ago | (#39812151)

Because even if there's some non zero probability of existing, people of earth will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever find it. Never. Not ever. Mankind will never find any direct evidence of life anywhere else.

Let's take a look at ourselves first ... (1)

applematt84 (1135009) | about 2 years ago | (#39812195)

Has anyone ever thought about the reason why we haven't found nor been contacted by intelligent extra-terrestrial life is due to the fact that our world is so mucked up? I wholeheartedly believe that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe; so put yourself in their shoes. If you're an alien with the intelligence and skill to achieve interstellar travel, would you stop and visit a world as hostile as ours, or simply avoid it and classify said planet as "The Ghetto"?

Scientific facts (1, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39812221)

1) on a planet with water, life can rise up.
2) There is a lot more water out the in the universe then we every imagined.
3) There are billions of planet that can have liquid water.

So the existence that life is in the universe is a fact.

The idea that it can only happen once is a guess.

Link to Article (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39812223)

Here is a link to the article on arXiv

http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.3835

Article & preprint (2)

Eivind Eklund (5161) | about 2 years ago | (#39812255)

Their article is at PNAS [pnas.org] (with an accessible preprint on Arxiv.org [arxiv.org] and has the following abstract:

Abstract

Life arose on Earth sometime in the first few hundred million years after the young planet had cooled to the point that it could support water-based organisms on its surface. The early emergence of life on Earth has been taken as evidence that the probability of abiogenesis is high, if starting from young Earth-like conditions. We revisit this argument quantitatively in a Bayesian statistical framework. By constructing a simple model of the probability of abiogenesis, we calculate a Bayesian estimate of its posterior probability, given the data that life emerged fairly early in Earth’s history and that, billions of years later, curious creatures noted this fact and considered its implications. We find that, given only this very limited empirical information, the choice of Bayesian prior for the abiogenesis probability parameter has a dominant influence on the computed posterior probability. Although terrestrial life's early emergence provides evidence that life might be abundant in the universe if early-Earth-like conditions are common, the evidence is inconclusive and indeed is consistent with an arbitrarily low intrinsic probability of abiogenesis for plausible uninformative priors. Finding a single case of life arising independently of our lineage (on Earth, elsewhere in the solar system, or on an extrasolar planet) would provide much stronger evidence that abiogenesis is not extremely rare in the universe.

Someone should take the time (2)

J'raxis (248192) | about 2 years ago | (#39812315)

Recent discoveries of planets similar to Earth in size and proximity to the planets' respective suns have sparked scientific and public excitement about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds.

But Princeton University researchers have found that the expectation that life---from bacteria to sentient beings---has or will develop on other planets as on Earth might be based more on optimism than scientific evidence.

Wow, this sounds like just what scientists were saying about the likelihood of discovering extrasolar planets themselves... before a bunch were discovered. And then I remember a flurry of stories full of similar nay-saying, but just about the idea of discovering Earth-sized planets. Until they discovered some of those, too.

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