Alternative universe known as science fiction, gave our culture a whole menagerie of alien species. From Teddy bears like the ewoks to the evil creatures like “Aliens”, our collective imagination peddled to us quite Hollywood images at the thought of alien life. Who to believe? What will the aliens when the appear on our radar is something completely different, or strange versions of horror films from b-movie?
One thing is for sure: aliens from other worlds will be subject to the same evolutionary forces, as we are on Earth — natural selection. To such conclusion scientists from the University of Oxford, submitting his article for publication in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
Scientists suggest that the theory of evolution presented by Charles Darwin in his famous book “On the origin of species” 158 years ago, can be used for predictions on the topic of alien species. In particular, as the scientists write, the aliens will pass through natural selection because it is the only process by which organisms can adapt to the environment.
“Adaptation is what defines life,” says lead author Samuel Levin.
Although it is likely that NASA or some private company, like SpaceX, in the end run into space rocks and open microbial life in the not so distant future, aliens are trying to describe Levin and his colleagues, is much more complicated. Because natural selection works.
Let’s recap: natural selection is the process by which certain traits in a particular population are becoming more preferred. For example, take a group of brown and green beetles. Since birds prefer to eat the green beetles more brown beetles survive and are reproduced. If population pressure continues, the brown beetles will be the dominant species. Brown will win, green will lose.
And just as people are the result of millions of years of adaptation — for example, their eyes and thumbs, aliens will consist of parts which were once free-living, but eventually came together to work as one organism.
“Life has too many clever parts, too many complexities that this happened (randomly),” explains Levin. “Too complicated and too many things need to work together purposefully to it was an accident. Need the process of creating, and this process — natural selection”.
Just don’t think that aliens would be bipedal humanoids with large heads and almond-shaped eyes, says Levin.
“They can be created from absolutely other chemical things and visually unrecognisable,” he explains. “They will pass through the same evolutionary history as us. As for me, it’s much more interesting and better than what they have on two legs.”
Lack of data
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer SETI Institute and host of Big Picture Science radio believes that although the argument itself is interesting, it does not answer the question about the appearance of aliens.
Shostak argues that a more productive approach would be convergent evolution, when similar environments occur similar adaptation, in any case, assuming ground conditions according to the type of liquid oceans and thick atmospheres. For example, alien species which develop in a liquid medium, most likely, will have an elongated body that helps to move through the water.
“Randomness and the specificity of the environment will lead to changes on an alien planet just as we have, and there is no way to predict,” says Shostak. “Alas, the exact space bestiary it is impossible to describe one only the inclusion of biological mechanisms. The data you want. It is not enough thinking about extraterrestrial life. You need to open it”.
The search is
The search is underway. On the one hand, the task seems simple enough: in the milky Way galaxy has about 100 billion planets, and about 20% of them can produce the biosphere. Even if the evolution of life is an extremely rare process — even according to conservative estimates in 0.001% (200 000 planets) the chances are quite high.
Of course, not so easy to place them on a piece of a billion light-years.
Planet hunters can’t even agree on what the signatures of life to look for. It is believed that there is no smoke without fire. If alien world will be home to biological life, astrobiologists will look for the presence of “biosignature gases” produced by extraterrestrial life.
Scientists are looking for such gases, studying the planet’s atmosphere against the background starlight. Gases in the atmosphere absorb certain frequencies of starlight, suggesting that in the boiler is a single planet.
The presence of oxygen, apparently, must be a biological beacon, but there are times when the planet can produce false positive results: that is, the emergence on the planet of oxygen will respond to non-biological processes. Scientists like Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at mit, argue that there are plenty of examples of other types of gases produced by organisms even on Earth that could point to life and another planet.
Life as it is
The existence associated with the Land of extremophiles — organisms that can exist in the most improbable circumstances, for example in the vacuum of space, gives another clue about what kind of aliens we might meet eventually.
Lynn Rothschild, astrobiologist and synthetic biologist at the Research center Ames in Silicon valley, takes extremophiles as a basis, and perfected, using synthetic biology.
For example, bacteria are able to survive temperatures of 120 degrees Celsius. Laboratory of Rothschild may bring this threshold to 150 degrees. The idea is to bring life to these opportunities that she didn’t even need missiles.
Although scientists can’t agree on where, how and what we will find in the search for extraterrestrial life, most of them believe the following: alien life must exist.
“I would be surprised if aliens did not exist,” says Levin. “Few things could shock me more than the conclusion that aliens do not exist. If I had to bet, I’d bet everything on the fact that extraterrestrial life somewhere in there, and a lot of it”.
The aliens must be like us even more