Searching for extraterrestrial life – Part 2

In this post we will focus on finding the intelligent life in outer space.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to distinguish between an intelligent life and another non-intelligent life away from us, except for the technology used by the former. So let’s focus on finding the technologically advanced intelligent life in this post.

As we said in the previous post, the prerequisites are more restrictive if we are to find planets where technologically advanced intelligent life can emerge. The main thing is that we need to have a solid surface and a liquid surface also, which excludes the large gaseous planets from our list, leaving as options in our own solar system only: Venus, Earth, Mars and perhaps some satellites and dwarf planets.

We consider as a technologically advanced intelligent life the one that have, at least, a language, a writing system, a radio communication technology and a transport technology (such as chariots, carriages, cars, boats, ships, submarines, airplanes or spaceships). Which implies knowledge about eletricity and probably a mass production system.

Basically our proposal to find technologically advanced intelligent life is the same as in our proposal presented in the previous post, but replacing light by radio broadcasts.

Any technologically advanced intelligent life will need to create some communication technology and will use radio waves to transfer signals like voice and data from one place to another far away. These radio waves will continue to propagate through the Universe and can be captured by us.

So the goal here is to find radio emissions that can be established as having origin near the orbit of the planet and that can not be explained by natural processes, such as radioactive decay, such as our own artificial (man-made) radio emissions, .

If we find artificial radio emissions coming from near the orbit of the planet, it is because we have some form of intelligent life living there.

To precisely determine the origin of an artificial radio emission it is necessary to capture it by several radio telescopes all over the world in order to triangulate precisely the position of the radio source. This is the main difficulty in doing this search. We need to point out not just one radio telescope, but several radio telescopes, to the same sky position, away from each other, to prevent our own emission interfering with the results.

But any signal that is captured by all of them at the same time must have come from far away from us, because if it were generated near us, they should be captured at different times by the antennas. Ideally, these antennas should be located on different continents around the globe instead of many antennas in the same location.



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Searching for extraterrestrial life – Part 1

As we discussed in the previous post, to increase our chance to find life, we should look for planets where we can find a liquid surface and near to these planets. We are unlikely to find life away from a liquid planet.

But the liquid does not mean water. At least not only water, but any liquid, including methane.

Of course, that planets with liquid water will be more likely to find life more similar to ourselves, but we must keep in mind that there may be forms of life that are completely different from ourselves, including some based on silicon rather than carbon.

If we was searching for simple lives like bacteria and viruses, we must include very cold planets in our portfolio. In our solar system all planets except Mercury must be included. A solid surface is not needed to allow these organisms to emerge, only a liquid surface that can be composed of gas under pressure, making Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus possible candidates as well.

So, when we was searching for extraterrestrial life outside our solar system, we need to consider not only planets with solid surface and liquid water but those with solid surface and any liquid surface and large gaseous planets, including those very cold to have liquid water and even those too hot too, if the pressure of your atmosphere can create a liquid surface somewhere on the planet.

To find places that can support intelligent life the prerequisites are a bit more restrictive. We will discuss this in our next post.

But the question is what to search for on those planets that may suggest that some life is living there?

Should we search for organic components in the atmosphere?

It may be a target, of course, but as we discussed in our previous post, these components can be made by chemical reactions inside the planet, but this quest excludes the possibility that we find life based on silicon or life forms completely different from what we know.

What to search for then?

Light is the answer.

On Earth we have bioluminescent organisms and the light they produce is totally different from sunlight. We have a lot of organisms that produce light, including some algae and the light reflected by the plants also differ from the sunlight.

The hard thing to do is that we need to separate the light reflected by the planet from its own star from that produced within the planet itself. If we find in the middle of the light reflected by the planet radiation of a quality or color different from that emitted by the star, that light can only be produced by the life inside the planet.

To do this, we need to compare the composition of the frequency of the light emitted by the star with the composition of the frequency of the light reflected by the planet and subtract the effect of its atmosphere and any solid and liquid surface that can exist in the planet and the difference is the effect of the life there. A simple and beautiful solution.

This is our best chance to search for life in outer space away from us and it should be our choice, at least before we can make space travel and go there to check, because it is easy to implement and is unquestionable and undoubtedly, being scientifically very solid.

To gain experience on it, we should try to use this technics to infer the presence of life on the planets and satellites in our own solar system, including the Earth where we know that the life exists.

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How and why the life emerge?

Life is the result of evolution.

We generally think that only living beings can evolve but, in fact, remember that, like we have defined, evolution is a process of increasing complexity. In this sense, even inanimate matter can evolve. For example, when the methane becomes ethane as a result of a chemical process, that is an evolution.

Keeping this in mind, it is easy for life to emerge anywhere in the Universe where a liquid environment is available. The liquid medium facilitates the chemical reactions by dissolving the reactants. Usually we think only about water as a liquid, but it is not necessary. Any liquid can do this, like methane or any other.

Over time, simple substances, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen, must evolve to produce proteins and they will evolve to produce more complex molecules, such as RNA and DNA.

On the other hand, the components of cells, such as mitochondria, may be unique to the cells that have emerged on our planet. Of course, extraterrestrial cells must have another structure to replace mitochondria with the same function. The same can occur with other components of our cells.

Planets without liquid environment probably will have no life unless life was implanted there by a meteor coming from a planet with life or by an intelligent life with space travel capability.

It is clear that complex lives that came from different planets may be completely different as to the shape and function of their internal organs, although externally they are similar.

But why does all this occurs?

The answer is simple but controversial.

Evolution is the response of the Universe to compensate for the increase in entropy that results from any physical process to maintain the universe’s entropy unchanged.

Keep in mind that in a closed system the entropy must remain unchanged because any increment in one part of this system needs to be compensated with a reduction elsewhere. If our Universe had its entropy increased, it would entail energy gain.

Imagine a box with air inside. If we move 3/4 of this air to one part of this box the rest of the box should have the other 1/4. In the first part the entropy was increased, but in the second the entropy was reduced, but in sum the entropy of the whole system is exactly the same.

When simple substances react to make more complex substances the entropy is reduced, being entropy the measure the disorder of a physical system. The sum of the decrease in entropy caused by these reactions should compensate for the increase in entropy of the physical process related to the event.

The same occurs in the process of fusion within a star. When two hydrogen atoms merge to create a helium atom, the entropy inside the star is reduced, but the released energy compensates for that reduction and maintains the entropy unchanged.

In this sense, chemical evolution plus biological evolution should reduce entropy at the same rate as the physical process increases the entropy to have a null result, while the physical process that reduces the entropy, like fusion, releases energy that will keep the entropy unchanged.

That is why life emerges.

Life is the final result of the process of chemical evolution.

That is how life emerges.


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Analyzing the language and writing

Any intelligent organism need of a rich language to can transmit the knowledge between members of the group. If each member had to discover all the knowledge by himself again, it will be a big limitation to until where the knowledge can evolve.

The language should contain concepts of quantity, size, distance, measure, time, actions and nouns, at least and can be based on sounds or gestures.

A rich language is a prerequisite to any form of life that intend to conquer the space.

Of course, have a rich language is not enough. It is necessary to register the knowledge not only to facilitate the query and retrieve but to avoid loss and adulteration. To do this some form of writing is necessary.

The form of writing can be based on an alphabet (used to represent sounds, words and ideas) or on pictograms/ideograms/logograms (where each symbol represents an icon or idea or word).

The alphabet-based representation is more flexible and easy to learn, but less concise than the pictographic representation.


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Analyzing the body shape

The body shape of an organism should conform with the needs of this organism.

To any intelligent organism as less energy spent at locomotion better, then, this organism will reduce the locomotion structures to the minimum necessary that let the organism move and capture the necessary food to survive.

We should have in mind that as more structures to locomotion bigger the space on the brain used to coordinate the movement of these parts, reducing the space available to the abstract think. Therefore, more structures, less intelligence.

In the case of an intelligent organism that intend make a space travel the requisites will be even larger, because they need to have ability to make and use tools, a good motor coordination and capacity to carry objects of various formats from one place to another.

Based on this principle lets imagine an organism with only one structure that can be used to move or capture the food. What is the matter with this configuration? Well, firstly, or the organism moves or capture the food but not both at the same time. Then, to capture the food the organism need to move to a place where the food is or go to a good place and stay there, static, waiting the food pass near enough to be captured. This organism could not climb trees because have only one structure to grab and when this organism need move it upward will fall down, making only possible to organism eat things that can be found at ground level. You can deduce that this configuration is very limiting. Therefore, we should think about at least two structures to the same function.

Based on the previous paragraph, we can imagine that an intelligent organism should have two legs and two arms or four paws (while the front paws are capable to catch things the rear paws are used just to propel the body). But for that organisms that intend to make a space travel two legs and two arms are requested.

In the case where the organism need catch things with various formats an opponent finger is an advantage, such as in the last case described above.

Why not two legs and four arms? Simple. Because the benefits don’t compesate the extra cost at energy to sustain it and the extra space on the brain required to control.

Why not four legs and two arms? Same reason.

Therefore, a body shape like ourselves (two legs, two arms, a head and upright posture) should be the best option to any form of life that are capable to create technology and make a space travel, but differences in height, weight, strength, power and proportion should exists and will be determined by the environmental variables of the planet where the organism emerged and lives.

On planets with a heavy atmosphere or intense gravity those organisms should have strong muscles and low height, while on planets with a slim atmosphere and low gravity those organisms can have weak muscles and big height.



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Analyzing the environmental prerequisites

An intelligent form of life should be energetically efficient to release as much energy as possible into the thinking process.

Obviously, an intelligent organism must be pluricellular and complex, having specialized cells that may be responsible for the thinking process itself, such as our neurons.

A stationary and intelligent organism can’t do more than contemplate the Universe. Even if this organism exists it will be difficult to find it. So let’s think about an organism that can move itself.

This organism must live in a dry environment with some particular characteristics for these reasons:

  • In a liquid environment the organism can move itself in all the 3 dimensions which make the need for technology disposable.
  • A liquid environment makes the stars invisible or less visible. Trying to relate the processes on the planet and the sky is the primary source of knowledge.
  • The star that dominate the stellar system should not be too luminous, leaving the planet’s sky with many stars visible.
  • A reasonable atmosphere should exist to protect the organism from spatial events (such as meteors, radiation, etc.).
  • The planet must have day and night or be illuminated by a little bright star that leaves the stars visible all the time.
  • A relatively long year with seasons.
  • A challenging and dangerous environment with tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes.
  • Having a satellite or being part of a binary system is desirable, because it creates changes in the liquid part of the planet and also generate heat.

Keeping this in mind, in the next post, let’s imagine how the body shape should be to conform with those prerequisites and our four rules.

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Analyzing the Earth

On our planet, the simpler life that still exists processes the sulfur oxides to obtain energy to stay alive, but as a consequence it releases oxygen.

These organisms must have been prevalent when life began on our planet, but as these organisms didn’t follow the third rule, they created the conditions of their own extinction, to know, they increased the amount of oxygen – a lethal gas for them – in our atmosphere. Unfortunately, being so simple, these organisms didn’t have enough consciousness to know this.

Being oxygen better for producing energy than sulfur, almost all the life after the initial period used oxygen as fuel to obtain energy, including ourselves.

But the key to making oxygen the main source of energy were the photosynthetic organisms that emerged after the oxygen consumers. These organisms have created a circular flow of oxygen making it available in our atmosphere at any time. In the absence of these organisms we will depend on the sulfur consumers to release our oxygen which means our atmosphere should have oxygen and sulfur at the same rate making it very acidic for our life.

As you can see on Earth, we have many forms of life, but a few intelligent ones (understanding intelligence as the ability to solve an abstract problem). Among them, one stands out, ourselves.

For example, when a cat, instead of chasing after a mouse, moves to a position ahead of the mouse to catch it, it is because the cat has calculated that the mouse will be in that position when he (the cat) gets there. In other words, it will be heading to where the mouse will be after a certain amount of time rather than heading to where the mouse is at the moment. This is abstract thinking and therefore intelligence.

But what makes us special among the intelligent forms of life on our planet?

Body shape, language and writing are the main.

Let’s understand each one in the next posts, but firstly we will analyze the environmental prerequisites.


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