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News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 11

One paper says the planets around Trappist-1 may be more habitable than first thought but another says that planets around M-stars may be less so…

Our universe: Three challenging ideas:

A challenge to Newton’s laws of gravity: “An international team of astrophysicists has made a puzzling discovery while analyzing certain star clusters. The finding challenges Newton’s laws of gravity, the researchers write in their publication. Instead, the observations are consistent with the predictions of an alternative theory of gravity. However, this is controversial among experts.” – ScienceDaily (October 22, 2022) We know we are getting somewhere when we find out things we didn’t expect. The paper requires a fee or subscription.

Is a new anomaly affecting the entire Universe? “The most puzzling, unexplained anomaly in all of cosmology is the Hubble tension: the difference in the measured expansion rate depending on which method is used. However, a second, less-publicized anomaly is also extremely puzzling: a difference in our observed motion through the Universe and how different things appear in various directions. We have many different methods of estimating how the Universe differs in different directions, and they’re not all consistent with one another. That’s a real, unsolved, but important problem!” – Ethan Siegel, Big Think (October 24, 2022)

Spacetime is not fundamental: “Since at least Einstein we have seen spacetime as fundamental. But modern physics, from quantum field theory to gravity, now suggests spacetime is doomed. So, what lies beyond spacetime? We, ourselves, might be part of the answer, writes Donald D. Hoffman.” – cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffmann, IAI News, (October 27, 2022) We’ll wait to hear other speakers before drawing any conclusions.

In or near our galaxy:

When we are looking for evidence of intelligent extraterrestrials, as opposed to ET life in general, what are we really looking for? We are looking for evidence of objects or circumstances designed by an intelligent life form. Put another way, if an intelligent ET came across an abandoned late model car, it would not take long for that ET to realize that the car is not a result of wholly unintelligent causes. The ET could learn a fair amount about humans just from studying the car and its contents.

It’s the same for the 16 people who will spend the next nine months studying UFOs/UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena). They are trying to detect evidence of things or circumstances that only life forms with considerable intelligence would create:

While UFOs are commonly associated with aliens, NASA doesn’t think the phenomena are “extra-terrestrial in origin.” But the agency says observations make it difficult to draw scientific conclusions.

Jordan Mendoza, “NASA announces 16 people who will study UFOs to see what’s natural—and what isn’t” at Phys.org (October 24, 2022)

No indeed. The phenomena could, of course, be advanced technology kept secret by not-so-friendly powers, for one thing. It’s also possible that they are weird weather phenomena, not yet identified, that could look like the work of an intelligent alien if viewed under the right circumstances. Here are some examples of that:

Some think that the reason we don’t see evidence of other intelligent life forms near us is that the Sun is not the right type of star. In an open-access paper accepted at Astrophysical Journal, Jacob Haqq-Misra and Thomas J. Fauchez make the case that the Sun won’t last long enough to interest them:

Gauging stars by their longevity isn’t intuitive to humans. If one type of star lasts 10 billion years and another lasts 10 trillion, what difference does it make to anyone but an astrophysicist? But now, imagine you’re part of a decision-making body for a civilization that is a million years old—or even older—and has expanded to different solar systems. Then, a star’s age matters to you.

K dwarfs and M dwarfs (red dwarfs) are long-lived. Even for an extraordinarily advanced civilization, colonizing another solar system would require lots of resources. Why expend those resources on a star system that might not last long?

Evan Gough, “Maybe We Don’t See Aliens Because Nobody Wants to Come Here” at Universe Today (October 25, 2022)

Well, it’s imaginative and sets one thinking…

In the constellation Aquarius, we are told in an open-access preprint paper, the planets around Trappist-1 may be more habitable than first thought: “TRAPPIST-1 is a red dwarf star located around 40.7 light years away from our solar system. Four of its seven planets are situated in the Goldilocks zone, which is the band of space around a star where the temperatures enable liquid water to exist on the surface. Its relative proximity to Earth (our Milky Way galaxy is around 100,000 light-years across, for reference) and its multiple Goldilocks planets have made TRAPPIST-1 a focal point for the search for life on other planets.” (Newsweek, October 25, 2022)

Another recent study, however, has suggested that the number of habitable planets is lower than supposed: “Scientists had long hoped and theorized that the most common type of star in our universe — called an M dwarf — could host nearby planets with atmospheres, potentially rich with carbon and perfect for the creation of life. But in a new study of a world orbiting an M dwarf 66 light-years from Earth, researchers found no indication such a planet could hold onto an atmosphere at all. Without a carbon-rich atmosphere, it’s unlikely a planet would be hospitable to living things. Carbon molecules are, after all, considered the building blocks of life. And the findings don’t bode well for other types of planets orbiting M dwarfs, said study coauthor Michelle Hill, a planetary scientist and a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Riverside.” – Slashdot (October 26, 2022) The only way of resolving these types of questions is more research.

In other news, in the constellation Auriga, a planet has been spotted that could float in a bathtub:

Meanwhile, here’s an article on the work of ET hunters who are looking beyond our galaxy, focusing on cosmic events that technologically advanced civilizations would be interested in.

In our solar system:

“Just in time for Halloween, scientists have discovered something spooky and strange occurring at the edge of the solar system: The heliopause — the boundary between the heliosphere (the bubble of solar wind encompassing the solar system) and the interstellar medium (the material between the stars) appears to be rippling and creating oblique angles in an unexpected manner.” – Space.com (October 27, 2022):

Not quite so far out, NASA is planning a mission to the moons of Uranus, of which there are 27 known: (Space.com, October 27, 2022). It’s pretty weird out there, maybe too early to talk about life chances:

Right around home — Mars:

Mars could have active volcanoes: “‘The darker shade of the dust signifies geological evidence of more recent volcanic activity, perhaps within the past 50,000 years — relatively young, in geological terms,’ study lead author Simon Staehler, a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, said in a statement. ‘It is possible that what we are seeing are the last remnants of this once active volcanic region, or that the magma is right now moving eastward to the next location of eruption,’ he said.” – Space.com (October 27, 2022) Here’s the paper.

And then there are marsquakes:

A flurry of studies of Mars’s internal structure is finding plenty of surprises.

Could Earth-type bacteria survive on Mars? Some think Deinococcus radiodurans could. “[Michael] Daly and a team of scientists recently published new research in the space journal Astrobiology showing that an incredibly robust earthly microbe, Deinococcus radiodurans — which survives in nuclear reactors — could endure for millions of years if buried underground. The farther down, the more protection. By exposing the bacteria to intensive radiation in a laboratory, the scientists concluded D. radiodurans could weather radiation for 1.5 million years at some four inches down. But at around 30 feet, the buried microbe could endure, in a dormant state, for 280 million years. “That’s a shocking amount of time,” Daly noted.” – Mark Kaufman, Mashable (October 29, 2022)

Our universe is actually fine-tuned for life, as Steve Meyer tells us in The Return of the God Hypothesis. Consider the abundance of carbon:

Indeed, carbon-based life is the only known form of life, and carbon has features that make it uniquely suitable as the basis for complex chemistry and life. For instance, carbon is essential for forming sufficiently stable, long, chain-like molecules capable of storing and processing genetic information. Carbon also combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide in essential chemical reactions. Carbon dioxide is a gas, so it can easily escape cells as waste and readily mix throughout the biosphere.

Stephen C. Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis (HarperCollins, 2021) p. 203 Kindle Edition.

Some argue for silicon-based life in our universe — and it may work — but it’s nowhere near as obviously workable as carbon-based life:

You may also wish to read: News from the search for extraterrestrial life 10. In our universe, it seems, we don’t get down to the Really Simple Stuff. We just get down to smaller but still very complex stuff.
Mars might have and underground life and Venus might have aerial life. New missions have been approved that will help us find out.

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News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 11