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Thread: Evidence for ET is mounting daily, but not proven.

  1. #571
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evan View Post
    Not what I meant. What I want is for someone to come up with a detailed model that can function on Titan even if it doesn't exactly fit the observed evidence so far. We know enough about chemistry to start by easily ruling out a wide range of reactions that won't work. What is left is a very short list and the required conditions are easily duplicated in the lab.

    As for explaining what we have observed, we don't have sufficient information about the atmosphere dynamics. The reactions that do occur are almost certainly all taking place where the energy is, at the cloud tops. Even though the ambient temperature is still very low there is plenty of incident radiation to initiate and promote reactions. That is what is missing at the surface. Again, that is quite easy to duplicate in the lab. All it takes is money and that is a political problem.
    Thats a good point, and there are efforts underway - check out some of the poster abstracts from LPSC 2011. That said we know so little about Titan any attempt at a 'proof of principle' biochemical model would be a total shot in the dark. If one could be found it might validate the idea, but with so little to go WRT Titan failing to find one does not kill the idea. I think eliminateing the obvious negatives is the best use for lab tests in that regard at the moment, as you suggest. And Nature always always has surprises in store. the field of cryogenic tholin chemistry in liquid methane/ethane is not exactly mature!

    A few other thoughts:

    Technically Titans surface has abundant chemical energy - thats where all the material from the upper atmosphere formed by higher energy reactions ends up. What is lacking is many known chemical reactions that can proceed at that temperature to release it.

    Titans upper atmosphere is getting more complex every time we look at it - it seems oxygen from other icy moons could get there and form things like amino acids, but the number of possible structures is vast anyway.

    The vast number of combinations and low temp could mean Titan has a lot of novel compounds that are only stable at very cold temps, but I'm no chemist...
    In space PR and Politics are as important as engineering and science. And no-one can hear you screaming about it.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    Exploring other worlds with people is a great idea, but look at what has happened since the end of Apollo: How much could unmanned exploration (and astronomy) have discovered with all that money blown on paper rockets?

  2. #572
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    Look, some one agrees with A.Dim:

    yes, it is Chandra Wickramasinghe.

    "As we enter a new decade – the year 2010 – a clear pronouncement of our likely alien ancestry and of the existence of extraterrestrial life on a cosmic scale would seem to be overdue."

  3. #573
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    Quote Originally Posted by transreality View Post
    Look, some one agrees with A.Dim:

    yes, it is Chandra Wickramasinghe.

    "As we enter a new decade – the year 2010 – a clear pronouncement of our likely alien ancestry and of the existence of extraterrestrial life on a cosmic scale would seem to be overdue."
    For every crackpot idea, there are a dozen crazies spouting it. But for every solid fact, there are a hundred.

    And for every internet forum thread, there's always one guy willing to make up numbers to make a point.

  4. #574
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    Quote Originally Posted by transreality View Post
    Look, some one agrees with A.Dim:

    yes, it is Chandra Wickramasinghe.

    "As we enter a new decade – the year 2010 – a clear pronouncement of our likely alien ancestry and of the existence of extraterrestrial life on a cosmic scale would seem to be overdue."
    How about something more recent from the man?

    Viva Panspermia!

    Working backwards from N=500 at 4 bya to lead to a simple viral-sized genome of say N = 10 (the virus of E coli φX174 has 11 genes), nearly four e-folding times are involved, giving a total evolutionary timescale of nearly 8 billion years, longer than the age of the Earth (cf, Joseph28, Joseph and Schild29).
    Hoyle and the present author have dwelt at length on the improbability of obtaining a minimal gene set needed for the emergence of a bacterial genome from random processes. For a set of 500 genes and assuming that 10 sites per gene need to be correctly filled with one of a set of 20 amino acids, the probability turns out to be
    ~10-6500 . But if only a set of 60 genes can kick start the evolutionary process in the early universe, leading eventually the genes to all life, then the probability is 10-80, which is more easily attainable, and could have been achieved in situations such as have been discussed by Gibson et al27.
    Viva panspermia!


    Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater view?

  5. #575
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    Quote Originally Posted by baric View Post
    For every crackpot idea, there are a dozen crazies spouting it. But for every solid fact, there are a hundred.
    Indeed, and a solid fact remains that panspermia is more than a crackpot idea, it's a longstanding scientific theory.

    And for every internet forum thread, there's always one guy willing to make up numbers to make a point.
    Are you suggesting I fabricate numbers to make my points?
    Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the greater view?

  6. #576
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    Quote Originally Posted by transreality View Post
    Look, some one agrees with A.Dim:
    I believe you have that backwards.

  7. #577
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.DIM View Post
    Indeed, and a solid fact remains that panspermia is more than a crackpot idea, it's a longstanding scientific theory.



    Are you suggesting I fabricate numbers to make my points?

    No, no! Not at all! I was talking about me fabricating the numbers from the previous sentence!

    My main point was that ideas should stand and fall on their own merits, not based on whom happens to agree or disagree with them.

  8. #578
    I think that panspermia is a legitimate area for research.

    It does seem to be classified in with the "out there" theories which I consider a bit harsh I did note when I first joined one of the guiding posts specifically highlighted it as a topic of some controversy.

    At the end of the day there is life on rocks in space flying about on rocks (the earth) QED its not unreasonable to think there's life on other rocks flying about other bits of space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dalkeith View Post
    I think that panspermia is a legitimate area for research.

    It does seem to be classified in with the "out there" theories which I consider a bit harsh I did note when I first joined one of the guiding posts specifically highlighted it as a topic of some controversy.
    I think it depends on which interpretation of panspermia you are supporting that decides how far "out there" it is.

    The idea that complex pre-biotic molecules can form in the cold of space and then "seed" a biological friendly environment like Earth to jump start abiogenesis is not really far out there at all.

    This would still result in a separate abiogenesis on each planet and does not imply that biological organisms can survive in space.

  10. #580
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    Quote Originally Posted by baric View Post
    I think it depends on which interpretation of panspermia you are supporting that decides how far "out there" it is.

    The idea that complex pre-biotic molecules can form in the cold of space and then "seed" a biological friendly environment like Earth to jump start abiogenesis is not really far out there at all.

    This would still result in a separate abiogenesis on each planet and does not imply that biological organisms can survive in space.
    More than this, the concept that bacteria might knocked off one planet and survive transit and impact onto another nearby planet, is at least plausible. That such a mechanism might work to spread beyond such nearby neighbors or even across interstellar distances, probably wrings the scientific plausibility out of the concept.

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    The idea of lithopanspermia - that rocks expelled into space from Earth during a dinosaur-killer sized impact could reach another planets surface with viable microbes within them - has also been investigated in some depth. The impression I get is that, due to the body of evidence accumulated, lithopanspermia is regarded as being mainstream, plausible, and worth pursueing, if unlikely. The findings of what I read (some time ago) IIRC were that, while the odds of any single microbe making the trip intact were very bad, they were not so bad as to guaruntee wiping out all of a large population of rock dwelling microbes.

    The case of a 1 meter rock ejected from the dinosaure impact was the most commonly used. It was found (again IIRC) to be possible that many such rocks could be ejected into space without being heated all the way through, that the time for space radiation to sterilise the entire rock was tens to hundreds of thousands of years (long enough that an interplanetary crossing might realistically occur), and that landing might be survivable, particularly if the rock broke up as it hit the target planets upper atmosphere. It was suggested that the idea was far more plausible early in the Earths history when many impacts that size or bigger took place - more throws of the dice in effect. I'll try to find the papers.
    In space PR and Politics are as important as engineering and science. And no-one can hear you screaming about it.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    Exploring other worlds with people is a great idea, but look at what has happened since the end of Apollo: How much could unmanned exploration (and astronomy) have discovered with all that money blown on paper rockets?

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    I see something wrong with this idea... Its passing the buck.
    By making the suggestion that life came from some place else just avoids the question of how, where, why did it start at all...
    Its a cop out., and when you study the detail of bits of rock that 'might' contain life forms being thrown into space by whatever and letting said life spread thus.... really ? It looks a little short of real. Can we be shown proof of this ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    I see something wrong with this idea... Its passing the buck.
    By making the suggestion that life came from some place else just avoids the question of how, where, why did it start at all...
    If you increase the number of environments in which prebiotic molecules can incubate, then you increase the overall chances of abiogenesis as long as you have a mechanism to intermingle between the environments.

    "Why", as a question, is a non-sequitur so don't expect an answer for that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    I see something wrong with this idea... Its passing the buck.
    By making the suggestion that life came from some place else just avoids the question of how, where, why did it start at all...
    Its only passing the buck if we're lazy: the idea of life originateing elsewhere in the solarsystem (if ever proven) would show us that there is are two questions hidden within 'how did life on Earth start?'. Instead you'd have 'how did life start?' and 'how did it get to Earth?' And if the story is that earth life has travelled elsewhwere it doesn't change a thing.
    Anyone claiming that panspermia answeres the question of how life began just hasn't thought about what they're saying. That doesn't stop panspermia being an interesting idea, and if true it could inform our quest to understand how life started by pointing us in the direction of better places to look for clues.

    As Baric points out, the 'seeds of life' (as abiogenic carbon chemistry) are much easier to spread than actual life forms.
    In space PR and Politics are as important as engineering and science. And no-one can hear you screaming about it.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    Exploring other worlds with people is a great idea, but look at what has happened since the end of Apollo: How much could unmanned exploration (and astronomy) have discovered with all that money blown on paper rockets?

  15. #585
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    'Marsbug' understood me. Why didn't 'Baric'. Oh yes.
    As a possible answer to how life started on planet Earth I accept this Panspermia as a possible
    answer to part of the overall question... but how does it help this conversation ? No, I don't see it either.

  16. #586
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    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    Anyone claiming that panspermia answeres the question of how life began just hasn't thought about what they're saying.
    "Astronomy continues to reveal the presence of organic molecules and organic dust on a huge cosmic scale, amounting to a third of interstellar carbon tied up in this form. Just as the overwhelming bulk of organics on Earth stored over geological timescales are derived from the degradation of living cells, so it seems likely that interstellar organics in large measure also derive from biology." CW

    Under the doctrines of "Cosmic Ancestry" life precedes or originates with the universe. of course this is just typical of the approach of the panspermist, alot of "seems likely" and "suggests that", and argument by analogy, conjectures built on poor interpretations, and in apparent ignorance of well accepted science. In actual fact, Hydrogen is relatively primordial, Carbon and Oxygen originate in stars, and if they mix in nebula, as is inevitable when stars explode, organic chemistry results, all without requiring 'biology'.

  17. #587
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.DIM View Post
    How about something more recent from the man?
    I had a look at his Cardiff University page and noticed all of his 2010 publications were in the 'Journal of Astrobiology', I had a look at a few of the articles in this journal and there is something slightly strange about many of them, I was having a look through the latest to see whether any looked like conventional mainstream science... I'm not sure...I'm pretty sure that the Pivar paper on evolution of the vertebrate skeleton does not correspond to any developmental evolution story i've seen before. Not so sure about the astronomy, and there is alot of panspermia. You should probably check it out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baric View Post
    If you increase the number of environments in which prebiotic molecules can incubate, then you increase the overall chances of abiogenesis as long as you have a mechanism to intermingle between the environments.
    And you can demonstrate that abiogenesis doesn't depend upon a very narrow range, if not precise, set of exacting conditions?

  19. #589
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    Let's not turn this into yet another panspermia thread. The discussion in this thread on panspermia ends now. If you wish to discuss it, start a new thread or dig up an old one. And if anyone really needs their panspermia post in this thread moved to the new thread, Report your post and it can be moved.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    At a interesting 590 post in... have we learned anything ?
    With constant and ongoing developments our ability to detect anything is improving.. and, by anything in this context
    I am thinking of living things of some technical ability.
    Please feel free to update my muddled thoughts on this. As yet we have zero cases to study...

  21. #591
    Returning to the article by AP science writer Seth Borenstein quoted in the OP...

    Every new discovery makes it more likely that we are not alone. The case for some kind alien life somewhere else in the universe is steadily building.
    The word "likely" may be too strong – clearly there is still plenty of room for different opinions about whether life beyond Earth is likely or not. But there does seem to have been a shift since the 1980s, when Norman Horowitz (a biologist involved in the Viking project) could say:

    Since Mars offered by far the most promising habitat for extraterrestrial life in the solar system, it now virtually certain that the earth is the only life-bearing planet in our region of the galaxy. We have awakened from a dream. We are alone…
    (cited Steven J. Dick; The Biological Universe; Cambridge Universe Press, 1996; p 157)

    Back then, observations of Mars and the other planets and moons seemed (to eminent scientists such as Horowitz) to make any sort of life in this solar system extremely unlikely. And back then, the very existence of planets beyond the solar system had not even been established. So the prospects of actually finding even simple forms of life beyond Earth then seemed remote. Unless of course a life-form was going to be kind enough to send us a radio message.

    Discoveries in the last 20 years – hundreds of identified exoplanets, plumes of methane on Mars, reassessment of Viking findings about supposed lack of organic compounds in Martian sand, evidence of liquid water inside Enceladus and Europa, the indications of carbon cycling on Titan – these new findings do and should make a difference to how well-informed people think about the question of life beyond Earth.

    Seth Borenstein is close to the mark. Life on nearby worlds – I mean, worlds near enough to check out with space probes or at least with space telescopes – increasingly looks, if not likely, at least possible and plausible.

    It is, at least, no longer "virtually certain" that there is none.
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2011-Sep-19 at 01:46 AM. Reason: grammar fix

  22. #592
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Returning to the article by AP science writer Seth Borenstein quoted in the OP...



    The word "likely" may be too strong – clearly there is still plenty of room for different opinions about whether life beyond Earth is likely or not. But there does seem to have been a shift since the 1980s, when Norman Horowitz (a biologist involved in the Viking project) could say:

    (cited Steven J. Dick; The Biological Universe; Cambridge Universe Press, 1996; p 157)

    Back then, observations of Mars and the other planets and moons seemed (to eminent scientists such as Horowitz) to make any sort of life in this solar system extremely unlikely. And back then, the very existence of planets beyond the solar system had not even been established. So the prospects of actually finding even simple forms of life beyond Earth then seemed remote. Unless of course a life-form was going to be kind enough to send us a radio message.

    Discoveries in the last 20 years – hundreds of identified exoplanets, plumes of methane on Mars, reassessment of Viking findings about supposed lack of organic compounds in Martian sand, evidence of liquid water inside Enceladus and Europa, the indications of carbon cycling on Titan – these new findings do and should make a difference to how well-informed people think about the question of life beyond Earth.

    Seth Borenstein is close to the mark. Life on nearby worlds – I mean, worlds near enough to check out with space probes or at least with space telescopes – increasingly looks, if not likely, at least possible and plausible.

    It is, at least, no longer "virtually certain" that there is none.
    I see the direction going the other way. The early Grieeks thought that every point of light in the sky was a planet like the earth filled with different forms of life. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries Venus was thought to be a rainy, swampy paleo environment and Mars was thought to have vast vegetative bands supported by canali (natural or artificial). Then in late twentieth century (seventies) there were still (imagined) vast bacterial masses on Mars and in cloud top colonies on venus, and every star system with planets was largely identical to ours, with at least 1 terrestrial planet in the habitable zone.

    Now, if there is other life in our system it is largely hidden and inaccessible in deep rock mantle zones or under kilometers of ice on gas giant moons. And while we've actually found planets around other stars, they are in systems that generally don't even come close to approximating our system, with planets that our understandings lead us to believe are really not much like anything we are familiar with.

    None of this convinces me that we are alone in the universe, but it certainly seems like the likelihood of life as we know and understand it is getting more rare with the passage of time and the increase of our understandings of the universe.

  23. #593
    Quote Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
    I see the direction going the other way. The early Grieeks thought that every point of light in the sky was a planet like the earth filled with different forms of life. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries Venus was thought to be a rainy, swampy paleo environment and Mars was thought to have vast vegetative bands supported by canali (natural or artificial). Then in late twentieth century (seventies) there were still (imagined) vast bacterial masses on Mars and in cloud top colonies on venus, and every star system with planets was largely identical to ours, with at least 1 terrestrial planet in the habitable zone.
    It's true that if you look through past history, you can find arguments in favor of life beyond Earth that seem ridiculous in the light of modern knowledge. You can also, if you look, find arguments against life beyond Earth that are equally laughable in the context of what we know now...

    * According to Aristotelian, geocentric cosmology, celestial bodies were made of a different substance than Earth – a lighter, aetherial substance, which is why they didn't fall down from the sky. So, no possibility of embodied life there.
    * About 100 years ago, the great biologist Alfred Russel Wallace argued that life would be impossible anywhere in the Milky Way Galaxy except at or near its centre, which was where our Solar System was then supposed to be...
    * In the early 20th century, James Jeans put forward the theory of planetary formation being caused by a chance close encounter between two stars, and thought the Solar System might be unique: the one and only instance of a star with planets.


    Now, if there is other life in our system it is largely hidden and inaccessible in deep rock mantle zones or under kilometers of ice on gas giant moons. And while we've actually found planets around other stars, they are in systems that generally don't even come close to approximating our system, with planets that our understandings lead us to believe are really not much like anything we are familiar with.
    You've drawn attention to the unfamiliar characteristics of other worlds. What I find interesting is the mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. The water fountaining from the surface of Enceladus may come from beneath a thickish layer of ice, but it is still the familiar substance H2O...

    None of this convinces me that we are alone in the universe, but it certainly seems like the likelihood of life as we know and understand it is getting more rare with the passage of time and the increase of our understandings of the universe.
    I'd agree that life beyond Earth is unlikely to be "life as we know it". Judging by the other stuff we've found beyond Earth, it will be very different in some ways, yet similar in others…

  24. #594
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    ...I'd agree that life beyond Earth is unlikely to be "life as we know it". Judging by the other stuff we've found beyond Earth, it will be very different in some ways, yet similar in others…
    Your supposition of life other than "as we know it" is based upon what evidence?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
    Your supposition of life other than "as we know it" is based upon what evidence?
    Life as we know it, in the different habitats here, which shows some of the variability of life, even in as narrow a band as we have available for observation here, would suggest that life elsewhere, if present, will have some properties that are essentially impossible to predict. Even if its circumstances are very similar to here.

    I would posit though that one property we would be able to recognize eventually will be reproduction with offspring almost but not entirely identical to the ancestors, and that this will have driven evolution to adapt that life to basically everywhere it could be fitted.
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    I think there is almost certainly organic life out there and we will share some basic commonalities with it, like reproduction, resource consumption, metabolism, and evolution. I think there is probably present or past microbial life on mars and elsewhere in the solar system, but probably not higher than say an algae mat; I do not think that the lack of higher life forms in our solar system means that LAWKI is not out there, they just need a planet a little more like Earth. I think that if intelligence is also out there, some of them will have become machine intelligences that may have no similarities to us at all.

  27. #597
    Quote Originally Posted by Trakar View Post
    Your supposition of life other than "as we know it" is based upon what evidence?
    You sound like a lawyer, defending Mars, Europa and Titan from the charge of harboring undocumented aliens! Well, I can't present proof beyond reasonable doubt, but I would argue there are real and growing grounds for suspicion.

    When the findings from Titan were mentioned earlier in this thread, you compared them to depressions in a backyard that someone interpreted as possibly being the footprints of a dragon.

    A crucial difference (it seems to me) is the extent to which the territory in question has been studied.

    The surface of the Earth has already been explored by naturalists, thoroughly enough to make it most unlikely that there are major new classes of vertebrates which remain to be identified.

    It wasn't always that way, though. Two centuries ago, when the first skins and eggs of the platypus were shipped from Australia to Europe, was it in the category of "life as we know it"?

    Not to the naturalists of the time, who in fact suspected a hoax. Furry animals did not lay eggs, nor did they have duck-like mouths.

    I would compare the Titan findings to apparent footprints of an unknown animal in the mud of a largely unexplored continent, like Australia was (from the European point of view) two hundred years ago.

    Yes, it is conceivable they will turn out to be something other than footprints. But if we seriously want to find (or exclude) extraterrestrial organisms, they are the sort of clue we need to follow up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baric View Post
    Keep in mind that history will record the discovery date, not the verification date.

    If *something* is discovered in 2016 and we confirm that it is indeed ET life in 2036, the psi-books of 2100 will most likely record 2016 as the discovery date. So, in that sense, your prediction would be correct. :P
    ok, but history books record Columbus finding America in 1492 simply because he could verify it... and did! He had witnesses, artifacts, Indians, etc. that he brought back as proof. And others came after him, so thus he was right.
    Ifcourse, the Vikings who landed in America before him did not return as they all died off. Neither was that Chinese admiral given credit for discovering California as he didnt know where he was.

    What if, some UFO reports are indeed real, as are some abductions, or writings of visits by angels in the Bible are actually alien contact with humans? Would any of it be considered as 1st proof of alien existence, once ifcourse aliens have been proven to exist? Wouldnt it be funny if aliens do admit to having abducted humans?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    You sound like a lawyer, defending Mars, Europa and Titan from the charge of harboring undocumented aliens! Well, I can't present proof beyond reasonable doubt, but I would argue there are real and growing grounds for suspicion...
    I would disagree. The supposition of life "as we imagine it might be" is not "growing grounds" for anything but unfounded speculation or "science fiction" as it is popularly called.

    Just because life as we know it seems increasingly hard to sniff out, is no reason to begin presupposing, without the barest hint of empiric support, issues of life "other than as we know it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Life as we know it, in the different habitats here, which shows some of the variability of life, even in as narrow a band as we have available for observation here, would suggest that life elsewhere, if present, will have some properties that are essentially impossible to predict. Even if its circumstances are very similar to here.

    I would posit though that one property we would be able to recognize eventually will be reproduction with offspring almost but not entirely identical to the ancestors, and that this will have driven evolution to adapt that life to basically everywhere it could be fitted.
    If it is carbon nucleotide based life I would consider it life as we know it, if it seems alive and is based on something else, then I would say it has a good chance to be life not as we know it. I've seen no evidence of life as we don't know it, virii and some basic protein structures (prions) come close, but look to be degradations and mutations of more traditional carbon nucleotide life. I'm uninterested in what form or habitat life as we know it adapts to fit, it is still life as we know it. so far the only type of life we can confirm and compellingly support as existing is life as we know it. So far, the only examples of life as we know it, come from our own planet. As far as we can tell, all of the life on our planet is not just the same type of life, it is all apparently related. Not just the same "kind" of life, the same "life," common ancestry.

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