General, Research, Technology

Intelligent life beyond Earth - reality or fiction?

Character of the cult television series 1990's “SecretMaterials, ”FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, is convinced of the existence of intelligent life beyond Earth and that representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations have visited our planet more than once. Companion agent Mulder, FBI special agent Dana Scully, did not share the views of a colleague, questioning his extravagant ideas. The controversy between the two FBI agents is an excellent example of how to perceive all information regarding aliens - with a high degree of skepticism and exclusively from the point of view of science. And if aliens really exist in the universe of The X-Files, and are trying to take over our planet, in reality things can be completely different.

The famous poster that hung in Agent Mulder’s office. The caption at the bottom of the poster reads, “I want to believe.”

Regardless of our beliefs and desires,there is an objective reality: our home - planet Earth, is located in the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy, which cuts open the vastness of the infinite Universe. And in the Universe, as we know today, the same laws of physics apply as on Earth. Science has helped to answer complex questions about the world and our place in it, and it is science that is our guiding light in trying to find the answer to the question of whether we are alone in the Universe.

Content

  • 1 Fear of loneliness
  • 2 Where did life come from in the universe?
  • 3 How the discovery of exoplanets changed the world
  • 4 What can be life outside the earth?
  • 5 How to relate to the contradictory statements of scientists?

Fear of loneliness

After Nikolai Copernicus laid the foundationof the scientific revolution, challenging the general idea that the sun revolves around the earth, almost five hundred years have passed. A lot has happened during this time. So, thanks to the development of technology, we were able to first consider the celestial bodies closest to us, and then completely go beyond the boundaries of our own planet. We sent robotic vehicles into space, made Mars the only planet in the solar system inhabited by robots, and discovered hundreds of planets around other stars. Just think - there are thousands of distant worlds, most of which are probably uninhabited. But if you and I appeared, it is possible that among countless worlds there will be at least one inhabited by intelligent creatures. At least we really want to believe it. However, no matter how we peered into the sky, we still do not know if anyone else is there. Nevertheless, in attempts to find the answer to the famous question of the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi “where is everything?” It is necessary to clearly separate reality from fantasy.

Where did life come from in the universe?

Outer space is the main chemicala factory that began operations immediately after the Big Bang. The three lightest elements - lithium, helium and hydrogen, as well as the other 92 elements found in nature, created stars, including without exception carbon, calcium and phosphorus, which is present in all living organisms on Earth. When the stars die, they eject the lion's share of their mass into space and endow the nearest gas clouds with a set of atoms that will enrich the next generation of stars in the future. Thus, all people, planets and moons would not exist, if not for the remains of expended stars. It also tells us that rare ingredients are not needed for life.

We owe life on Earth to supernova explosions

Five first places in space in distributionthey are hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. Interacting with each other, these elements allowed us to create the main components of life on Earth. But space for molecules that live in massive clouds enveloping the stars, the place is not the most favorable. Constant temperature jumps, supernova explosions and ultraviolet radiation from nearby bright stars can destroy molecules. In order to survive and become part of the particles of cosmic dust and then comets, asteroids, planets and people, molecules must live in areas that are relatively calm and sheltered from extraneous influences. Moreover, for complex molecules to be born, time is also needed.

The most famous complex molecules areglycolaldehyde (hydrocarbon), adenine and glycine. These and similar ingredients are necessary for the emergence of life familiar to us and are found, of course, not only on Earth. The abundance of chemical elements in the Universe can give rise to life on other planets. Moreover, such planets of the solar system as Jupiter, Saturn and its satellite Titan are extremely rich in chemical elements. In 2005, the Huygens space probe landed on Titan, thanks to which we know that the chemical situation on the largest moon of Saturn is in some ways reminiscent of the situation on young Earth. For this reason, many astrobiologists consider Titan a kind of laboratory for studying the past of our planet. Thus, today, talking about life on other planets has ceased to be the prerogative of crazy people. In addition, modern studies of especially hardy organisms - for example, tardigrades - show that life knows no boundaries and is not afraid of any obstacles. To find life outside our planet, scientists must understand not only astrophysics, chemistry and biology, but also geology and planetology, because they are looking for potentially inhabited planets everywhere.

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How the discovery of exoplanets has changed the world

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics wasawarded to James Peebles for theoretical discoveries in the field of cosmology, Michel Mayer and Didier Kelo for the discovery of an exoplanet that revolves around a star similar to our Sun. Since 1995 - after the discovery of the famous exoplanet 51 Pegasi b - astronomers have discovered more than a thousand exoplanets in our galaxy. The discovery of 51 Pegasi b was a revolution in astronomy and led to the emergence of exobiology, as well as new tools for finding and characterizing observed exoplanets. Needless to say, the more new worlds scientists discover, the greater the desire of the public to find out if they are inhabited.

Exoplanet 51 Pegasi b by the artist

For 25 years, the hype surrounding exoplanets has notcalms down. The colossal public interest in distant worlds, of course, was caused by the prospect of finding intelligent life on them. However, this hype is probably overrated. As astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil Degrass Tyson writes in his book Death in a Black Hole and Other Small Space Troubles, recently discovered planets are mainly gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, which means they don’t have a suitable surface for life development. Again, in our usual understanding. And even if the gas giants are inhabited, the likelihood that these living organisms are intelligent is extremely small.

However, most astrophysicists inmost agree that life in the universe is likely to be somewhere else. It is very simple to justify this position - if our Solar system is no exception, then the number of planets in the Universe exceeds the number of all sounds and words ever spoken by representatives of our species. Following this logic, statements that we are the only intelligent life in the Universe sound rather radical and somewhat unbelievable. But is it all so clear?

What can life be like outside the earth?

To begin with, on our planet alonethere are, almost, millions of species of living things. If you think carefully, it is quite difficult to imagine that jellyfish, algae, beetles, sponges, snakes, condors and giant sequoias come from one planet. The variety of forms and varieties of living organisms on Earth suggests how amazing life can be in other worlds. We assume this on the basis that life appeared due to the interaction of four chemical elements - hydrogen, helium, oxygen and carbon. Therefore, it is very likely that if we ever find life outside the Earth, it will consist of a similar mixture of elements. However, if alien life is at least somewhat comparable to life on our planet, the mind seems to be rare. According to some estimates, over the entire history of the Earth, more than 10 billion species have existed on it. Therefore, it can be assumed that only 1 out of 10 billion of all extraterrestrial species of living organisms will be as intelligent as Homo Sapiens, no more. And this is not to mention the chances that these intelligent creatures have high technology and a desire to establish interstellar communication.

But if such a civilization does exist, thenCan I contact her? Astronomer Carl Sagan devoted his whole life to the study of space. One of Sagan’s works is the science fiction novel “Contact”, in which the scientist describes the most likely contact from the point of view of science with representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations - it will take place using radio waves. The fact is that radio waves are able to cross the galaxy unhindered, penetrating both interstellar gas and clouds of cosmic dust. However, there is one “but” - earthlings figured out the device and application of the electromagnetic spectrum quite recently, a little less than a century ago. This slightly reduces the chances that we will catch an alien signal.

These aliens were portrayed by the creators of the X-Files. The directors and screenwriters of other Hollywood movies and TV shows seem to have problems with imagination

Much more likely, however, to find inUniverse simple, unreasonable traces of life. And this is more than real, since right under our nose are Mars, Enceladus and Titan. In the next few years, NASA will send several devices to them at once, the main task of which is the search for extraterrestrial life. Some astrophysicists are convinced that in the coming decades we will find life outside the Earth. And this in any case will be a sensation.

How to relate to conflicting statements by scientists?

Given all the above, so loudstatements by some scholars and the media as “aliens have already visited our planet” or “aliens colonized the Milky Way” sound rather speculative. It may even seem that they are no better than the statements of people who were allegedly abducted by aliens directly from the bed and put terrible experiments on them. Nevertheless, one should not rush to conclusions.

Recently, The Astronomical Journal hadpublished a study according to which the aliens, with a high degree of probability, were already on our planet. Or they are not eager to communicate with us. According to Business Insider, researchers believe that if you do not take into account the movement of stars in attempts to solve the Fermi paradox, one of two things remains: either representatives of other civilizations cannot leave their planet, or we are the only technological civilization in the Milky Way galaxy. For this reason, in their work, researchers suggest that stars and planets revolve around the center of our galaxy at different speeds and in different directions. From time to time, stars and planets are not far from each other. For this reason, it is possible that aliens are able to travel to the nearest places in the galaxy. But such trips will take a lot of time, so the authors of the work believe that if the aliens have not reached us yet, they could visit the Earth long before our appearance on it.

Cover film adaptation of the novel by Carl Sagan “Contact”. The main roles were played by Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey.

And do you think we are alone in the galaxy? Share your opinion in the comments and join the discussion of this topic in our Telegram chat

It turns out that if 1 out of 10 billion species inSince our galaxy is intelligent and technologically advanced, the conclusions of scientists seem quite logical. Nevertheless, we cannot refute the conclusions of another study, which was carried out by specialists from the Institute for the Future of Humanity at Oxford University. According to the results, the probability that we are the only intelligent life in the observable Universe is quite high. Even if we assume that the average number of civilizations in the galaxy can reach hundreds, the probability that we are alone in the galaxy is 30%. According to the lead author of the study, Andreas Sandberg, to Universal-Sci.com, given the conditions necessary for the development of intelligent life, he and his colleagues concluded that there is a rather high probability that we are alone in the Milky Way.

Be that as it may, our world and our universethe place is so amazing that the fact that we are trying to get to know it and what we have ... is amazing. As for life outside the Earth, peering into the infinite cosmic void, it is difficult to assume that in the Universe there is nobody besides us. In the end, we are not so special.

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