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Thread: Expanded Search for Extraterrestrial Life Urged

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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Expanded Search for Extraterrestrial Life Urged

    I've never been a fan of SETI (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence), but this suggestion by the National Research Council makes sense. They finished a report on how likely it is that "weird life" exists, so life that doesn't need water for example or life that doesn't contain DNA, and came to the conclusion there are good reasons to suspect such life exists.

    Well, if so, we've been putting too much focus on finding water. Anyway, they urge more research into what the chemical possibilities for life could be and also urge searching Earth for these forms too, since there's evidence to suggest we evolved from it. I have this sneaky suspicion some unexpected technologies will result from that.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/06/sc...-alien.html?hp

    “The committee’s investigation makes clear that life is possible in forms different from those on Earth,” the scientists concluded. Their report, “The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems,” was published today by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences and posted on the NAS Web site, www.nas.edu."

    To find weird life, however, scientists will have to build new kinds of detectors. “There’s no question that the surveys of life on the planet we’ve done so far would have missed it,” said Dr. Benner.

    “Nothing would be more tragic in the American exploration of space than to encounter alien life and fail to recognize it,” the report concluded.
    -----------------------
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    CrunchTime's Avatar
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    That very well could be true.Extra-terrestrial organisms may have already landed on earth if you can believe this article.

    Red rain could prove that aliens have landed


    On 25 July, 2001, blood-red rain fell over the Kerala district of western India. And these rain bursts continued for the next two months. All along the coast it rained crimson, turning local people's clothes pink, burning leaves on trees and falling as scarlet sheets at some points.Investigations suggested the rain was red because winds had swept up dust from Arabia and dumped it on Kerala. But Godfrey Louis, a physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, after gathering samples left over from the rains, concluded this was nonsense. 'If you look at these particles under a microscope, you can see they are not dust, they have a clear biological appearance.' Instead Louis decided that the rain was made up of bacteria-like material that had been swept to Earth from a passing comet. In short, it rained aliens over India during the summer of 2001.
    The characteristic of this bacteria-like organisms is that they have no identifiable DNA.

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world...ticle_continue

    Mysterious red cells might be aliens



    Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit . (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250 degrees Fahrenheit .)
    So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India.
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science...ain/index.html



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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrunchTime View Post
    That very well could be true.Extra-terrestrial organisms may have already landed on earth if you can believe this article.

    Red rain could prove that aliens have landed


    The characteristic of this bacteria-like organisms is that they have no identifiable DNA.

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world...ticle_continue

    Mysterious red cells might be aliens


    http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science...ain/index.html
    Well, those researchers hypothesizing an extraterrestrial origin are not only going to have to show their theory is plausible, they're going to have to find ways to refute all other plausible theories. Assuming an extraterrestrial origin is adding an uncertainty those other plausible theories don't have, so the level of scrutiny is going to be immense before that's the accepted hypothesis.

    Here's an example of a more conventional explanation by a study commissioned by the Indian government:
    http://www.geocities.com/iamgoddard/SampathAbstract.pdf

    "A detailed study was carried out on the samples of red rain water obtained from Changanacherry, where the first report originated. The water was found to contain suspended particles, which settled down after several hours. The material that settled down was first separated and chemically analysed to determine its elemental composition. On microscopic examination, the substance was seen to consist of tiny circular particles that resembled spores. The sample was therefore transferred to the microbiology laboratory of the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI). The spores were found to grow well in algal culture medium. The alga was identified as a specie belonging to the genus Trentepohlia. The region in Changanacherry from where the red rain was reported was found to be densely vegetated with plenty of lichen on trees, rocks and lampposts. Samples of lichen collected from there also were cultured in the microbiology laboratory of TBGRI. The study showed that the lichen collected from the site gave rise to algae similar to the ones cultured from the spores obtained from the rain water samples. The spores in the rainwater, therefore, most probably are of
    local origin."
    ----------------------------------


    Also, keep in mind that it's nothing unusual for life forms to "rain" down. Fish, frogs, worms, etc.. have all rained down.

    Either way, the researchers are going to have their work cut out for them to demonstrate that's alien life. Remember all that buzz about NASA finding a fossil of alien microbes in a Martian rock? Research carried out later mostly concluded it was of terrestrial origin. Having said that, it would be great if the red cells are alien in origin, but don't count on it.
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    CrunchTime's Avatar
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    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and there is not enough of it this case.

    As an Electrical Engineer I prefer to follow Occam's razor which says that all other things being equal, a simpler explanation beats a complicated one- a red alga that is common in the area beats a red extra-terrestrial that is not.

    It still doesnt explain the lack of DNA which of course alga or lichen would have unless there was a flawed methodology in the testing.
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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrunchTime View Post
    It still doesnt explain the lack of DNA which of course alga or lichen would have unless there was a flawed methodology in the testing.
    Note that your link actually states this:

    QUOTE:
    "The next significant step, explains University of Sheffield microbiologist Milton Wainwright, who is part of another British team now studying Louis's samples, is to confirm whether the cells truly lack DNA. So far, one preliminary DNA test has come back positive."
    ---------------------------

    And wiki says this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rain_in_Kerala

    "A correction was printed in The Observer[18] regarding Dr. Wainwright's comment that the red rain lacked DNA. Dr. Wainwright asked in the correction to make clear that he currently had no view on whether the samples contained DNA and that it was physicist Godfrey Louis who is of that view.

    A sample of the rain was also sent to Cardiff University for analysis by noted panspermia proponent Chandra Wickramasinghe. Wickramasinghe has reported on the 30th of March 2006 that “work in progress has yeilded [sic] positive for DNA”.[19]"
    ---------------------

    So, it's not clear they lack DNA.

    Also, even if it lacked DNA, that wouldn't necessarily mean it's extraterrestrial in origin.
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    Dolphin39's Avatar
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    I personally think money spent on this could be much better spent and is a waste of money.
    1972 Miami Dolphins - "Perfection"
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    cnc66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dolphin39 View Post
    I personally think money spent on this could be much better spent and is a waste of money.
    of course you do...
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    Dolphin39's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnc66 View Post
    of course you do...
    And your point is?
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    ckb2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dolphin39 View Post
    I personally think money spent on this could be much better spent and is a waste of money.
    Let me ask you this. What criteria would you use to determine whether it's worth spending money on scientific research? So, if you controlled the purse strings, what set of rules would you use to determine which projects get funded?

    I ask this because I'm pretty sure you don't understand how valuable this kind of research is (in the sense of what research like this leads to in terms of benefits for society).
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    To find weird life, however, scientists will have to build new kinds of detectors. “There’s no question that the surveys of life on the planet we’ve done so far would have missed it,” said Dr. Benner.
    Without knowing what to look for, how can they design the sensors? Under the hypothesis that life can exist in any conceivable environment any piece of rock in space is a possibility.
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