Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagExtraterrestrial life

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Flu. Influenza viruses with RNA, surface proteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase,  medically 3D illustration

Astrobiologist: ET Viruses Likely Exist on Planets That Host Life

Paul Davies points to viruses as “mobile genetic elements” that transfer information between life forms — for better or worse

University of Arizona astrobiologist Paul Davies, author of many books, including the recent What’s Eating the Universe? (2021), told The Guardian, recently that if cellular life exists on other planets, something like viruses probably also exist — to transfer genetic information from one life form to another. Viruses, said Davies, can be thought of as mobile, genetic elements. Indeed, a number of studies have suggested genetic material from viruses has been incorporated into the genomes of humans and other animals by a process known as horizontal gene transfer. Nicola Davis, “Viruses may exist ‘elsewhere in the universe’, warns scientist” at The Guardian (September 6, 2021) Horizontal gene transfer, by which life forms “swap” genes, are common in bacteria and have…

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alien world, exoplanet in the habitable zone, planet with moon, water and plant life

Could the Universe Be Swimming in Watery Planets?

A new hypothesis of planet formation means that watery worlds may be common rather than rare

As the Mars Rover Perseverance motors around looking for evidence of past life on a now- mostly dry planet, some researchers are asking, can we be sure that most planets in our galaxy are dry? A common assumption among exoplanet experts is that most planets got their water via a chance hit early on from an icy asteroid. But researchers from the GLOBE Institute at the University of Copenhagen offer an alternative scenario, based on the millimetre-sized particles of ice and carbon that orbit all the young stars in our Milky Way galaxy. If masses of these particles are incorporated into a planet from its beginning, it isn’t a matter of chance whether the planet has water. It is a…

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collection of alien planets in front of the Milky Way galaxy, nearby exoplanets

Why Search for Extraterrestrial Life? Why Not Make It Ourselves?

A NASA astrobiologist’s bold suggestion is likely to spark debate

Recently, we have been looking at the question of why we don’t see aliens, with as many as 75 hypotheses offered. But one astrobiologist has a bold suggestion: Why not just seed life on various suitable exoplanets, once we have the means to do it? We need not search for extraterrestrial life if we can learn how to create it ourselves. There are a lot of reasons to think very carefully about doing something like that, as Betül Kaçar (pictured), director of the NASA Astrobiology Consortium MUSE, acknowledges: Rather than regarding the overwhelming majority of planets and moons as failures unworthy of further study, we should instead recognise them for what they are: they’re not empty. In fact, a very…