Thursday, October 03, 2013

Alien Microbes in the Stratosphere

British scientists claim to have discovered extraterrestrial microbes in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, too high to have originated on the surface:

Alien Bugs

If accurate, this claim is exciting news that should have been splashed all over the media. Life from beyond our world? Evidence that we aren’t alone in the universe?

One statement quoted in the article, though, goes too far. It doesn’t in any way follow from this discovery that life “almost certainly did not originate here.” The existence of alien organisms says nothing about whether life on this planet evolved here or drifted to Earth from outer space. It may have evolved separately on many different worlds (and probably did).

Of course, the premise of living matter’s being “seeded” in widely distant solar systems by alien super-intelligences has appeared in lots of science fiction. This concept can be very useful to a writer who wants to allow interbreeding between Earth-human people and ETs. If all planets’ inhabitants evolved separately, we’re left with the problem that (as Larry Niven says in “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”) Lois would have better luck producing offspring with an ear of corn than with Superman. And no Mr. Spock. Sigh.

Back to the reported discovery, the next question is: Do these alleged alien microbes have the same kind of DNA as organic entities known to us? If not, the difference would support the idea of their extraterrestrial origin—and open a whole new realm of exploration into the chemistry and biology of life as we know it and don’t know it.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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