Physics

It’s alien life, Jim, but not as we know it | Letters | Science


Professor Jim Al-Khalili (Opinion, 27 June) says: “There are some who argue that life on Earth appeared pretty quickly after the right conditions emerged almost 4bn years ago, which was when our planet had cooled sufficiently for liquid water to exist. Doesn’t that mean it could easily appear elsewhere too? Actually, no. A statistical sample of one tells us nothing”.

Well, actually, yes. If we had evolved on a planet circling a dying star and observed that although environment conditions for life on Earth had existed for many billions of years before finally getting started, then we might reasonably conclude that the emergence of life was a bit, well, tricky. Since we actually observe that life got started “pretty quickly” then we ought to conclude that it’s not particularly improbable. True, we only have one datum point, but it’s not nothing.

If you’re asked to predict the colour of the next ball to be withdrawn from an opaque sack, and all you’ve seen so far is a single black ball, then you know something: that black balls can be drawn from the sack. Since you have absolutely no information on the number of white balls, red balls, green balls, or balls that are sky blue pink with a yellow border, you’d be wise to guess black. A statistical sample of one does tell us something; it’s just not very reliable evidence.
Roger Oliver
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Surely Jim Al-Khalili and his fellow scientists are missing out a large area of consideration when contemplating the prospect of finding aliens? Our idea of intelligent life is a construct of sensing and reasoning abilities particular to our evolution on Earth. For all we know, Mars may be packed with some kind of entities with some kind of consciousness that we are not capable of experiencing. On other planets there may be small pockets of gas clouds, held together by energies we don’t understand yet, with concerns we have no way of understanding. What is possible within dark matter? Are there other dimensions? “If we don’t know about it, it doesn’t exist” has always been a limiting philosophy.
Jef Pirie
Totnes, Devon

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters



Source link

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

John Large obituary | Environment
Why Your Palm Oil Boycott May Not Be The Best Way to Save The Environment
This Study Suggests Multitasking Is Not as Awful For Us as We Thought
When It Rains in The Driest Desert on Earth, It Literally Brings Death, Not Life
Good News! We Have Found a Thriving Polar Bear Population Somewhere on Our Planet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *