Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Scientist: Telltale Chemistry Betrays ET

Looks like I'm on a New Scientist rampage right now. Well it is required to be read on a weekly basis by many medical universities. Fortunately enough I love paging through their articles and finding out new things about science in general. For example this week, researchers have discovered a new way of finding new lifeforms on other planets through the LEGO theorem.

As we know from reading and watching many Science Fiction adventures aliens do look quite similar to us. Most of them have bipedal bodies, are able to walk and talk just like us. Forget about the green or other rainbow colours for once. The reality is that they may not be even made of the same base molecules as we are.
How do we know that each ET lifeform actually contains one or more of the 20 amino acids that sustain life on Earth? We don't. We do however know one very important aspect that life causes. I'm talking about, of course, changes in the environment or setting. On Earth the levels of oxygen soared when life arose. Such changes must be investigated on other planets. Different minerals, temperatures, pressures and so on must be accounted for.

Of course this is all a very big challenge. A planet must be studied carefully for some time so that the environment can be analyzed properly. And how do we know that there are changes due to life? So many questions that are unanswered by this article. A good start could be employing the SOLID2, a robot that has the ability to detect life anywhere on Earth whether it may be in the hottest desert or in the coldest glacier. However this machine must be adapted for alien environments before being flown anywhere in the galaxy.

On the other hand, another device has spawned a possibility unlike any other. The Avida, a computer system which mimics natural evolution and survival of the fittest of many smaller softwares called avidians. Although this could prove useful we still face insurmountable odds in this investigation. Our hope lies, as it always does with the brilliant scientific minds that have been educated and have the ability to see beyond the box.