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This is How NASA Should Hunt Space For Aliens and UFOs

by Sebastian Kettley                  October 15, 2018                     (express.co.uk)

• Seventeen scientists representing the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have released a report urging NASA to focus all future missions on the hunt for astrobiological alien life. The report was mandated by the U.S. Congress.

• The report argues that growing public interest in life outside of Earth will dictate the course of NASA’s research in the “coming decade”. The report reads: “In the three years since publication of NASA’s Astrobiology Strategy 2015, significant scientific, technological and programmatic advances in the quest for life beyond earth have taken place.” “Scientific advances have revolutionised fields of astrobiological study, ranging from results from missions focused on exoplanets, such as Kepler, to continuing discovery from existing planetary missions.”

• NASA’s astrobiologists have primarily looked at candidates for life in the solar system so far, such as Mars and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. In recent years, NASA has found evidence of complex organic molecules in Martian rock, water plumes Saturn’s moon Enceladus and even icy deposits of water on our Moon. But an ever-growing list of exoplanets discovered far out beyond the borders of our corner of space have expanded the potential number of worlds where life could exist.

• Scientists are now hoping to unravel the mysteries of how life begins in the first place and whether these exoplanets have the right conditions for live to thrive. “Evidence from major transitions in environmental conditions from early Earth to today, and an understanding of how they occurred, is critical for the search for life.”

• The new report comes in contrast to NASA’s recent efforts to hunt the universe for signs of alien technosignatures – artificially created evidence of life in space such as radio signals – as opposed to biosignatures.

 

NASA should focus all future missions on the hunt for astrobiological alien life, top scientists have urged in a new report.

Seventeen scientists representing the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) believe the hunt for alien life is paramount.

In a report mandated by the US Congress, the 17 experts claimed astrobiology needs to be at the forefront of NASA’s research in space.

The scientists labelled astrobiology a “field of rapid change” where technological and scientific progress is advancing the quest to discover alien life.

Their report reads: “In the three years since publication of NASA’s Astrobiology Strategy 2015, significant scientific, technological and programmatic advances in the quest for life beyond earth have taken place.

“Scientific advances have revolutionised fields of astrobiological study, ranging from results from missions focused on exoplanets, such as Kepler, to continuing discovery from existing planetary missions.”

The report further argued growing public interest in astrobiology and life outside of Earth will dictate the course of NASA’s research in the “coming decade”.

Astrobiology is the study of the origins, development and spread of life throughout the universe.

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Star Trek’s Humanoid Aliens May Not Be Far Off

by Andrew Whalen                    October 18, 2018                  (newsweek.com)

• In his new book, The Equation of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution, Charles Cockell, an astrobiologist at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, argues for the possibility of a “universal biology.” Extraterrestrials could look “eerily similar to the life we see on Earth,” said Cockell. “Life on Earth might be a template for life in the universe.”

• The possibility that aliens may be too strange to even recognize as intelligent life has been proposed as a possible response to the Fermi Paradox, which ponders why we haven’t yet encountered signs of extraterrestrial civilization.

• Cockell believes the physical laws underlying evolution likely reverberate up through complex, multicellular organisms, essentially establishing a restricted scope of biological possibilities, many or most of which may already be expressed on Earth. While Cockell’s suppositions are frustratingly untestable, his book gives argumentative validity to our depictions of aliens as four-limbed humanoids with roughly similar sensory apparatus.

[Editor’s Note]   Modern science continues to view life in the galaxy from the standpoint of a Darwinian ‘natural evolution’. But what if ancient beings from a billion years ago became the ‘creators’, and genetically manipulated a variety of infinite types of beings throughout the universe? And what if a creator in our particular part of the galaxy adapted these genetics to a standard human-form template to create the dominant intelligent humanoid being that dominates this section of the galaxy?

It’s commonly accepted that of course extraterrestrial life doesn’t look like aliens do on Star Trek. Real aliens, wherever they are and whatever they may look like, certainly haven’t spent a few hours in a makeup chair to add brow ridges or threat ganglia. The possibility that aliens may be too strange to even recognize as intelligent life has been proposed as a possible response to the Fermi Paradox, which ponders why we haven’t yet encountered signs of extraterrestrial civilization.

Charles Cockell

But while it may be spectacularly unlikely that alien first contact will be with people who look like us (except with bowl cuts and pointy ears), a new book argues we shouldn’t be so quick to assume extraterrestrial life will be so far out of our biological frame of understanding. Alien life may be more Star Trek than Lovecraft.

The Equation of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution by Charles Cockell, an astrobiologist at the University of Edinburgh, argues for the possibility of a “universal biology.”

“My view is underpinned by a simple proposition,” Cockell writes. “Evolution is just a tremendous and exciting interplay of physical principles encoded in genetic material. The limited number of these principles. The limited number of these principles, expressed in equations, means that the finale of this process is also restrained and universal.”

Cockell argues that carbon and water aren’t just incidental to life on Earth, but are close to the optimum material and medium for the emergence of organic life (so no silicon-based Horta), themselves bound by the narrow physical parameters in which organic molecules can exist.

Extraterrestrials could look “eerily similar to the life we see on Earth,” Cockell told Forbes. “Life on Earth might be a template for life in the universe.”

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How Would We Recognize an Alien if We Actually Saw One?

by Samuel Levin               October 10, 2018                 (aeon.co)

• Astrobiology – the study of life on other planets – has grown from a fringe sub-discipline of biology, chemistry and astronomy to a leading interdisciplinary field, attracting researchers from top institutions across the globe, and large sums of money from both NASA and private funders. But what exactly are astrobiologists looking for? Would they even recognize an alien being?

• Under Darwin’s theory of ‘natural selection’, we can expect an extraterrestrial being to have reached that place in its development naturally through survival and reproduction. This combination of complex design (to better survive) and apparent purpose (to reproduce), also known as ‘adaptedness’, defines life. Entities are designed to fit their surroundings. The organism’s ‘design’ variation is always improving over the generations, which allows for ‘design to appear without a designer’.

• If alien development wasn’t ruled by natural selection, the aliens wouldn’t be able to cope with changes on their planet, and so would disappear before we found them. Therefore, aliens must be the product of natural selection, following certain Darwinian rules to produce only certain kinds of organisms. Thus, astrobiologists can use the theory of natural selection and the mathematics of evolution to make predictions about alien development.

[Editor’s Note]  On the other hand, what if the biggest game in the universe was genetic experimentation to create endless types of beings? What if technologically advanced ‘creators’ have simply adapted a humanoid “star template”, i.e.: a head, torso, two arms and two legs, as a practical template for the vast majority of intelligent beings? And what if these created intelligent humanoid beings were scattered all over the galaxy/universe already? What if Earth humans were unremarkable – a common entity throughout the galaxy, and were even at the lower end of the intellectual, technological and spiritual development scale? Or what if the different Earth human races were the descendants of various refugee groups from other worlds?  What if Darwin’s ‘natural selection’ had nothing to do with human or alien development, but these attributes were indeed ‘given’ to us not by natural selection but by ‘purposeful creation’ in order to survive in a particular environment? Once we have shed our belief that we are the only intelligent beings alive in the universe – having evolved ‘naturally’ from the planet’s primordial ooze, an entirely new universal paradigm of ‘creative evolution’ will be revealed to us as we raise our collective consciousness. It’s coming folks, so hold onto your hats.

 

What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held at Stanford University in California. Several ideas were tossed around – unusual gases in a planet’s atmosphere, strange heat gradients on its surface. But none felt persuasive. Finally, one scientist offered the solution: a photograph. There was some laughter and a murmur of approval from the audience of researchers: yes, a photo of an alien would be convincing evidence, the holy grail of proof that we’re not alone.

But why would a picture be so convincing? What is it that we’d see that would tell us we weren’t just looking at another pile of rocks? An alien on a planet orbiting a distant star would be wildly exotic, perhaps unimaginably so. What, then, would give it away as life? The answer is relevant to our search for extraterrestrials, and what we might expect to find.

Astrobiology – the study of life on other planets – has grown from a fringe sub-discipline of biology, chemistry and astronomy to a leading interdisciplinary field, attracting researchers from top institutions across the globe, and large sums of money from both NASA and private funders. But what exactly is it that astrobiologists are looking for? How will we know when it’s time to pop the Champagne?

One thing that sets life apart from nonlife is its apparent design. Living things, from the simplest bacteria to the great redwoods, have vast numbers of intricate parts working together to make the organism function. Think of your hands, heart, spleen, mitochondria, cilia, neurons, toenails – all collaborating in synchrony to help you navigate, eat, think and survive. The most beautiful natural rock formations lack even a tiny fraction of the myriad parts of a single bacterial cell that coordinate to help it divide and reproduce.

And living things, unlike dirt and wind, appear to be trying to do things – eat, grow, survive, reproduce. If you’ve ever tried to squish a resilient bug, you know that it doesn’t require a complex mind for an organism to appear to want to survive. Or for a squirrel to ‘want’ to jump from one branch to the next. Or for a plant to ‘try’ to reach towards the Sun and soak up nutrients from the soil. Not only do living things have many intricate parts, but all of those parts have the same, common purpose ¬– survival and reproduction. This combination of complex design and apparent purpose, also known as adaptedness, defines life. When we look at that photo of an alien, it’s exactly this adaptedness that would make us go: ‘Aha!’ We would see, clearly, the difference between a disappointing pile of rocks and an exciting alien – design. This is good news, because there’s only one way to get such design: natural selection.

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