Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagDirk Schulze-Makuch

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Backgrounds 3D illustration Alien planet Sci-fi Game

Would Advanced Aliens Be Fully Mechanical? Or Like Octopuses?

Astrobiologist Dirk Schultze-Makuch muses on the possibilities

Musing on a recent open-access study at PNAS, astrophysicist Dirk Schulze-Makuch notes at BigThink a couple of things that separate really smart life forms from the others. One of them, he guesses, is bilateral symmetry (life forms whose left and right sides are mirror images): “symmetry requires less information for DNA to encode and allows more flexibility to develop future traits that may be advantageous.” He also notes that smart life forms tend to be mobile rather than stationary: “We don’t know of any intelligent plants or fungi, for the simple reason that stationary things don’t have to be smart.” Well, wait. It’s not so much that stationary life forms don’t have to be smart as… what good would it…

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alien planet landscape, beautiful forest the surface of an exoplanet

NASA Develops a Scale for Assessing the Chances of ET Life

We’ve come a long way from mere snatches of (maybe) information to the need for standards in evaluating the expected incoming mass

Geoscientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, co-author with William Bains of The Cosmic Zoo (2017) and a number of other books on planetary habitability, thinks science needs standardized scales for assessing claims about extraterrestrial life. There are lots of claims: life on Mars detected by the Viking landers (1976), fossil life in a Mars-origin meteorite (1996), phosphine on Venus (2020) … all have some evidence in their favor. But scientists need a way to express degrees of certainty. Recently, NASA has proposed the Confidence of Life Detection Scale (CoLD), featuring seven benchmarks. The main problem is that evidence that might suggest life could just as easily be a non-biological process: Consider Jupiter’s moon Europa. A large asteroid impact could have volatilized ice on…

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Beautiful realistic flight over cumulus lush clouds in the night moonlight. A large full moon shines brightly on a deep starry night. Cinematic scene. 3d illustration

Is This Idea Too Crazy?: There Was Life on the Early Moon?

Not quite as crazy as some might think. The early solar system was very different from the current one

Life got started on Earth while the planet was still somewhat unstable. It could have got started within 100 million years of Earth’s formation at 4.5 billion years ago or as late as 3.5 billion years ago, depending on who you talk to. Either way, things were much more extreme and much less stable back then. That was true for Venus, Mars, and the Moon as well. To the extent that the universe appears fine-tuned for life to a dramatic degree, it’s at least reasonable to think it could have survived on, say, the Moon or Mars until conditions there became prohibitive. And if panspermia is a correct assumption (that life spread throughout the galaxy and took root in various…

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double moon above Crater Landscape on alien Planet.

Would ET Intelligences Understand the 1974 Arecibo Message?

Probably not, says astrobiologist Dirke Schulz-Makuch, who raises the question of whether we could ever really communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences

In early, easily-mocked sci fi, a little green man points his raygun at an unsuspecting passerby and barks “Take me to your leader.” Fast forward: If the little green man didn’t have the technology to figure out who the leader was before landing, he certainly wouldn’t have the technology to get here. In any real-world scenario, we must assume that extraterrestrial intelligences are doing common sense logical things that we would do: Check Earth’s inhabitants out first by monitoring our communications. Some analysts have pointed out that there are places they could even hide technology in our solar system (Lagrange points, for example) with much less chance of being noticed. But then the question is, what to say to them?…

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Exoplanets with moon

Could “Rogue Planets” Hold the Key to Extraterrestrial Life?

A new paper asks us to think about the possibilities of planets that have been kicked out of a predictable orbit.

A new paper asks us to think about the possibilities of planets that have been kicked out of a predictable orbit: In a new paper, Alberto Fairén from the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid, Spain, and I look into the possibility that planets wandering through interstellar space could also host life. These “rogue” planets may have been ejected out of their original solar system during the early, chaotic phase of planetary formation. There are two general types of rogue planets: gas giants like Saturn and Neptune, and rocky Earthlike planets. While the chances for life on gas giants is extremely remote, rocky migrating planets could in principle host microbial life. To do that, they would need internal heat from the…

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Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is exploring surface of Mars. Perseverance rover Mission Mars exploration of red planet. Space exploration, science concept. .Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Why Some Experts Hope We DON’T Find Life on Mars

Many thinkers worry about what will happen if the extraterrestrials land. But will they feel worse if we never find ET?

Recently, prominent theoretical physicist Michio Kaku (pictured) told media that reaching out to extraterrestrials is a “terrible idea.” Kaku, author of The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything (2021). So long SETI, after all these years? Well, not quite. He explains, Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago.…