Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life as we Know it.

Well, I have always been an avid fan of Astronomy. And passing time thinking about Extraterrestrial life has been one of my biggest hobbies. So I am writing this article in lieu of that.

Well, recently scientists are claiming that the moon hosts water, and it has been doing so for millions of years. And that it has water is an indication that it might have given refuge to living organisms sometimes in the past. Some say it has life even now. Apart from the moon, similar theories for life existence exist for Planets such as Mars, and also other moons of Jupiter and Saturn. In almost all cases, scientists and astronomers are for the lookout of water, or ice and in some cases even oxygen and the presence of a suitable atmosphere, which is essential to sustain life. My question to all of them, is a simple ‘Why?’ Yes, why. Why is it essential for water or oxygen or even an atmosphere to be present for life to exist? Why cannot life persist in absence of water and oxygen? Is there any real, valid, irrefutable scientific theory to endorse this statement?

For long, I kept on wondering about this. There are billions of planets in the universe. Any one of them could harbor life. And it is next to impossible for us, with our current technology level, to locate life in places far outside our solar system. We should keep in mind that we are not looking for earthlings, but any sort of life forms present. So why should they drink water and breathe in oxygen, and live in moderate temperature regions. Let us take a hypothetical situation. Say a living being X, lives in a planet whose average temperature is 500 degree centigrade. Say, X takes in nitrogen and releases hydrogen. Say the planet has no trace of either oxygen or water. Say, X depends on carbon related food material which can even be rocks. So whats the harm? You may say that it sounds too far-fetched, but hey its nothing compared to some of the alien movies we have seen and endured and live to tell about it. The thing is X may exist. There is absolutely no valid law that can refute this statement since we hardly know anything about the entire universe.

One explanation is similar to our mathematical models. We take it that a certain statement is true, and then based upon such given facts, we try to prove that other statements are true is well. Sort of similar to mathematical induction. So we assume that since life exists on earth(and that is a fact), so if we apply the conditions for life to exist on earth, or rather the conditions of the environment, temperature, proximity from the sun, atmosphere, etc, and we replicate these conditions for other planets, we may find life elsewhere. This theory may be correct, but it may be fallacious at the same time. We cannot predict with 100% accuracy, whether or not life can exist in other conditions. But I personally believe that it can. Other living beings need not be similar to Homo Sapiens or any other species found in Earth, for that matter.

But most scientists still follow the principle of ‘Life can exist only if a planet/moon is similar to Earth’. Namely the principles are:

The planet must be average size. Neither too big nor too small. Since life does not exist on Mercury and Jupiter.

2) The planet must have an atmosphere belt to protect us from UV light, meteors, harmful gases, etc. Since it is universally assumed that gases harmful for us will be harmful for other beings too. Duh!


4) The planet must have the same amount of oxygen and nitrogen, as in Earth. Even if some other being depends primarily on hydrogen.

5) The planet must have an average temperature of around 15 degree centigrade, the same of Earth. Else it is too hot or too cold to sustain life. Yawn, can anyone tell these people that hot and cold are relative terms. 1000 degrees may be hot for you, but not for X.

Anyways, enough of my blabbering. Obviously all the Nasa scientists and World renowned astronomers know much more than I do, and if they say the above principles hold true (Note: Without any solid proof), then perhaps they do. But I still believe what I feel like, and that is Life CAN exist without the above 5 principles.


Sudipta Chatterjee said...

You should read Carl Sagan's Cosmos - you will find a lot of answers and a lot more interesting questions on the lines of your thought in that book.

Satwinder Singh said...


Thanks a lot, dude. I will include that in my list of to-get books.

Anonymous said...

Hello Satwinder. Very interesting blog, and this post drew my attention 'cause I am a great fan of astronomy myself. As someone already remarked here, you should devour Carl Sagan's books. They are really thought provoking and inspiring. You may also want to check out one of my blog posts on ET life here: http://anglersrest.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/hello-world/

(and PS: I also hail from DGP, though have left the city 5 years back. Came across ur blog while searching for Indibloggers in DGP.)

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