Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's more profound, finding alien life or not finding it?

This is a pretty tough question. What's more incredible? Finding life on another planet or not finding it anywhere else in the universe? On a (totally killer) recent episode of Science Friday, where they discussed the search for alien life, Ariel Anbar (a professor at the NASA Astrobiology Institute) said, "whether you find it or not… is equally compelling… you could even make the case that if you don't find it, that's a more profound discovery."

How could that be more profound? Imagine the pressure that puts on Earth.

According to Arizona State University cosmologist Paul Davies, if we don't find life out there, "that would place an awesome responsibility on us… it would be our cosmic duty to keep the flame of intelligence and culture alive… it would be a total tragedy if, through mismanagement of our planet and our own species, we annihilated the one little corner of the universe where the flame of reason is alight."

But that would probably never happen. The Universe is a big place. How could we ever rule out that there is life somewhere out there? And if we scour every moon, asteroid and planet, turn every alien rock and swim every alien sea, what if we're looking for the wrong thing? What if life exists in a form we can't detect or simply don't understand?

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.