Extraterrestrials: who are we looking for?

15.04.2004

15.04.2004


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It is unlikely similarity of people and pilots flying saucers

Natalia Leskov

Scientists and science fiction writers warn that a meeting of different civilizations can bring unpleasant surprises, but the desire for contact is much stronger than the fear of frustration. Our nearest neighbor in the solar system finally allowed American rover "Opportunity" ("Opportunity") to take the soil particles, which were found signs of possible organic life. Does this mean that Mars has or had a life like ours? The problems related to the origin of life, says Professor Tobias Owen, a specialist in space chemistry and physics of planets, astronomy professor at New York University, a member of the International Astronomical Union.

Before the American Mars rover "Opportunity" has taken a particle of Martian soil, which have been found possible signs of organic life, he was thoroughly tested in the laboratories of NASA.
Photo: Reuters

— Professor Owen, film, literature, journalism so often exploited subject of extraterrestrial life, which seems to be aliens have become part of our everyday consciousness …

— Only the skeptical minds are resolved to deny their existence. Millions of people believe that they are watching us, waiting for the moment when our technical level will allow for two-way contact. Thousands believe that they repeatedly flew back to Earth, leaving many to confirm. Hundreds say that often communicate with humanoids are kidnapped, surgical interventions and even sexually abused by them. I know a woman who claimed to have given birth to an alien. Toddler even examined at a New York clinic, he was absolutely normal human infant. But the mother in this, of course, did not believe it.

Such statements do not mean that these people are mentally ill: the imagination and thirst for a miracle for them is so great that they go into an altered state of consciousness where humanoids and flying saucers are an undeniable reality. Speaking the language of facts, then today we know only one form of life — earth.

— This means that we are alone in the universe?

— Certainly not. While we do not have reliable information on this subject, but there came a time when this information may appear very soon. However, before you get ready for a meeting with extraterrestrial life, it is necessary to understand what, exactly, we are looking for? Almost no one thinks about it. Popular publications about extraterrestrial life are associated with UFOs, the crews of which its appearance resemble humans. However, it is unlikely that such a visit is possible at all. The origin of life is preceded by some form of chemical evolution, during which the simple molecules such as methane and carbon monoxide are converted into more complex substances, coming to a self-perpetuating system.

Necessary for the evolution of the liquid medium, from which their molecules transmit information. In this case, the formation and destruction does not require a lot of energy. Water and carbon are so well suited to these conditions, it is safe to say that most of the life forms in the universe, if they are, basically have these substances. Water — extremely efficient and versatile solvent for many compounds. In nature there is another element other than carbon, such as authorizing plurality of different compounds. These connections are easy to form and break apart. For example only two of them — the carbon dioxide (gas) and silicon dioxide (quartz). Silicon is essential for the formation of stones, but is not suitable for living. The possibility of carbon chemistry is so rich that it would be surprising to find on other planets life forms, similar to the Earth. Even so it is unlikely similarity of people and pilots flying saucers. We can not predict the appearance of extraterrestrial beings.

— But according to information received from the American rovers Red Planet looks completely lifeless. Does this mean that the chances of finding life there is almost no?

— Search started in the right direction. On the other planets of the solar system likely to find signs of life even less. On Mercury too hot, because of the small size it has no atmosphere. Jupiter and other giant planets have no solid surface, which could be formed ocean. In recent years, the attention of researchers stopped on Venus and Mars. These planets more other like earth and positioned in the outer solar system. In 50 years, assuming the existence of life on these planets were considered reasonable, but then about their atmospheres and surfaces, very little was known. Twenty years later, after the Soviet studies of Venus, this optimism has disappeared. Venus fell out of the list: the atmosphere there is of carbon monoxide, red-hot surface up to 450 degrees and totally devoid of water. This place is not suitable for living. There was only Mars.

— And recently, there have finally found traces of water. What does this mean from your point of view?

— Our expectations were met: once at the beginning of evolution, at the bottom of the Martian seas and oceans could be life. Then for reasons unknown to us at a free water has disappeared and remained only in the crystals. But Mars is interesting for us, even if there is no life. It is known that the earliest fossils of life on Earth are 3.5 billion years of age. They were found in Western Australia. It's been quite developed single-celled organisms that lived on the shores of ancient oceans. They drew energy from the sun through photosynthesis. If a chemical and then biological evolution on Earth has moved so far "only" one billion years, why this could not have happened on Mars?

During the first billion years of the Red Planet's atmosphere was thicker, the surface was a lot of water, and the conditions were very close to the earth. There might be chemical reactions leading to the emergence of life.

Now that the space probes found in the Martian soil traces of water, got the following problem: to get rock samples, which may be fossils of living organisms, such as those that have been found in Western Australia. But, of course, is not exactly the same. Under the polar caps of Mars can be found traces of the chemical evolution, extinct elsewhere under the influence of ultraviolet radiation. If all this happens, we will see a real sensation. Will undermine one of the saddest assumptions of science that life — is a unique phenomenon caused by only a single planet. If life can be somewhere else, so these forms can be infinite. Personally, I hope so.

— How do you feel about the hypothesis that humans have a Martian origin?

— Oh yes, it is extremely graceful legend, based on a number of assumptions funny. For example, the fact that people tend to psychologically as if to push the boundaries of physical time. In the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems in the late 80s of the last century were interesting experiments in the chamber when their participants do not consciously reported that an hour and allowed to stay awake indefinitely. Revealed a tendency to go to bed every night a little later than yesterday, so pushing the terrestrial day to 25 hours. Approximately the last Martian day.

Another assumption: people, unlike other terrestrial animals tend to get hurt, break limbs and other body parts of the blue. Not in the nature of cases that the dog or cat slipped on a banana peel and broke a leg. Perhaps this hypothesis, the authors argue, was pressing hard on us earthly gravity, making us sluggish and clumsy? On Mars, it is less than six times, the people there would have been easier and more comfortable. Suddenly we are all on the Blue Planet soon at a party, and our "house" — a Mars? It all sounds certainly intriguing, but no scientific evidence has not.

— So, hope to meet with the brothers on reason did not. It is somehow sad.

— Not at all! We — the first generation of earthlings who approached so close to the possibility of contact with the galactic community, if it exists. Life on Earth has existed for billions of years, and only the last 30 years, we have the technical ability to receive signals from other civilizations. But now, I think we are not ready for such contact and not so much technically, but morally. Maybe this idea will seem strange for a scientist, but I am confident that before people will be able to push the boundaries of communication outside of the planet, much less the galaxy, they must learn to understand each other.

The author thanks the leading specialist NASA, Academician Roald Sagdeeva for helping to organize the material.

14.04.2004

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