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Author Topic: Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?  (Read 1987 times)

Offline sammybingo

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Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?
« on: 05/04/2011 22:48:43 »
In some topics I've studied, and in many programmes / podcasts I've heard, astrobiologists and those speaking on their behalf have been discussing the possibility of life in other regions of the universe. They invariably mention things they deem necessary - oxygen, water, carbons and a nucleotide-y genetic structure. Is there any one working in the field who has really way out ideas? Who says life can only be formed in the way that we know it has on earth? Has anyone ever suggested any alternatives? If forms of life differing to the pattern we on planets we explore, would we be able to identify them?

Perhaps a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and my lack of knowledge on the topic may be making me question why they don't "think outside the box" a little more. Forgive that phrase, I do dislike it hehe. I suppose a starting point would be to define the word life?

I get myself in a bit of a head pickle with this one. If anyone can help out, I'd be jolly grateful  ;D


 

Offline CliffordK

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Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?
« Reply #1 on: 06/04/2011 20:02:01 »
There are many unique aspects of carbon, hydrogen, and water that makes life possible on Earth. 

There have been proposals for other solvents that might be capable of supporting life in some of the outer moons in our solar system including liquid methane and liquid ammonia. 

However, keep in mind that anything that can be proposed doesn't mean that it actually exists.  We will eventually be able to do direct samples of moons, asteroids, and planets throughout our solar system.  However, we are probably at least a century away from sending a probe to Proxima Centauri or Alpha Centauri, and even so, it may take centuries for it to arrive.

And, we will have to be content with distant observations of any star or planet over 1000 light years away.

So, at this point, a science fiction notion of some kind of magma eating creature around a distant star will have to remain just that, science fiction.
 

Offline JMLCarter

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Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?
« Reply #2 on: 10/04/2011 22:31:05 »
I would say they are using what they know, rather than being short-sighted.

There is a theory that the only property actually required for life is material complexity; such as we get from the ability of carbon to form complex chains and therefore a vast number of different molecules.

Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life which is an attempt to build a simulated stable "life-form" within a simulated universe with a very simple set of rules.

It's my opinion we should widen our search, but to what? The problem is to find real evidence indicative of what we should be searching for.

SETI search for radio signals, it doesn't matter what generated them.

The planet hunters are not just looking for life, but also for habitable worlds.
 

Offline briligg

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Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?
« Reply #3 on: 11/04/2011 04:42:03 »
SETI search for radio signals, it doesn't matter what generated them.

I've often wondered about that. Can artificially generated radio waves really be detected at great distances, when they are only designed for short-range transmission, using the technology we have? Wouldn't a more advanced civilization than ours tend to have a dimmer radio signal than ours, due to improvements in efficiency? Why would an advanced civilization shout out a general 'hello' to the cosmos with radio waves? Surely an advanced civilization capable of interstellar travel would have either found a better way to communicate across such vast distances, or they would simply not bother - why send a radio message if it won't arrive for many years? You might as well send it on any ship going that way. And why say anything at all to a less advanced civilization?
 

Offline JMLCarter

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Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?
« Reply #4 on: 11/04/2011 20:52:50 »
Not unreasonable, but you can't stop them spending time on it unless you have a better plan.

have a look
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox
 

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Are astrobiologists a little short sighted?
« Reply #4 on: 11/04/2011 20:52:50 »

 

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