Why There's a 'High Chance' We'll Find Alien Life in Our Solar System

Monday, 04 December 2017 - 10:08AM
Solar System
Alien Life
Monday, 04 December 2017 - 10:08AM
Why There's a 'High Chance' We'll Find Alien Life in Our Solar System
Image credit: NASA/JPL
Thirty years ago, President Reagan stood before the United Nations and gave a speech that included the line "I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world."

Professor Brian Cox thinks the opposite—it's once we realize that there is no civilization like ours (at least nearby) that we'll understand how precious life on Earth really is.

On the other hand, Cox thinks microbial life on other planets (and even moons) in our solar system is probably pretty common.

"I think the chances of detecting microbial life beyond Earth are high," Cox recently told Wired.
 
"If we went to Europa and went to Enceladus and went to Mars and had a good look, I wouldn't be surprised if in one or more of those places you find microbes."

However, he goes on to say: "But whether that life becomes multicellular and ultimately intelligent is an entirely different question...It's quite possible that civilisations are very rare, and that has political ramifications. Let's imagine that we start to come to the view that there are very few places like Earth, with a civilisation on it. I think that's a necessary step in our political evolution, because at some point we've got to find some direction, some way of running this world that is not fragmented."

An English physicist and presenter for the BCC, Cox is known for his Wonders of the Universe show, as well as several popular science books.

His argument, that extraterrestrial microbial life is relatively common but intelligence (and civilization) is not, is part of an ongoing debate within the scientific community that's related to a particular equation, introduced in 1961—the Drake equation.

The equation is made of seven variables multiplied together to give the approximate number of detectable alien civilizations in our universe.

Here's a short video explaining it:



There are a couple potential responses to Cox's claims about life in the universe. 

First is Dr. Erik Zackrisson's 2016 study, which says that life-supporting planets like Earth are incredible anomalies, even among the billions of stars and millions of galaxies in the universe.

Second is Professor's Avi Loeb's argument that Earth is just an early example of a living biosphere, and that more planets like it will develop as time goes on.

As NASA prepares for the Mars 2020 mission, all eyes will be turned to the Red Planet to see which who's right after all.
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Why There's a 'High Chance' We'll Find Alien Life in Our Solar System
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