16 February 2009

Shadow life and "less than inevitable"

Shadow lifeThis story in The Age predicts that we'll have evidence of life on other planets within four years. But, the argument goes, we probably won't find anyone to talk to, according to Alan Boss:

"Whether the life we find is intelligent is, however, less than inevitable. Intelligent life seems to be fleeting. In terms of the universe it only exists for a fraction of time."

Boss was apparently speaking at AAAS, as was Paul Davies, who coins the interesting term "shadow life" (analogous to a shadow cabinet, I suppose). Davies suggests that that there may be life here on Earth that evolved independently of all the life we already know. Certainly we've seen life living in places nobody expected, but so far, it all seems related. It'll be a tough haul to look. I wouldn't want to be the one writing the grant proposal.

"I seek funding to travel to the most extreme reaches of the planet to look for something that might not exist and that we might not recognize even if it does."

If shadow life exists, it would, like life on Mars, weaken the prospects for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), since it either would show that the origin of life does not inevitable lead to the formation of a highly intelligence species capable of using advanced technology.

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