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Not Comics, But…

…this sounds pretty interesting.

So, here’s a thought experiment: If you knew that the question of life on other worlds was about to be settled and you had to put money on Yes or No, which would you pick?

(I’m sure tomorrow’s announcement is nothing that conclusive or impressive, but it’s fun to dream).


Discussion (45)¬

  1. Robynne says:

    I want the answer to be Yes so badly that I’m refusing to entertain the notion that tomorrow’s announcement will be anything but a conclusive affirmation of the existence of extraterrestrial life.

  2. Steve Weiner says:

    There is–most definitely.

  3. Guillermo says:

    That’s a tough one, Scott…
    Maybe I’d say “yes”, but not by human standards…

    Is that a good answer? ;)

    Cheers from Barcelona

  4. Léo Elso says:

    Definitely I would put my money on Yes.
    I’m perhaps a bit old school but statistically, it would be impossible to not find another life in the entire universe…

  5. Mick Martin says:

    I’d have to put my money on yes. Maybe I’m wrong, I’m no scientist, but it seems logical that it would be much, much easier to prove there was life on other worlds than otherwise. I mean, if you proved there was absolutely NO life anywhere else you’d have to find Everywhere Else and explore all of it. Whereas all you have to do is find life on one other planet and there you go. Done and done.

  6. kidmang says:

    I got $10 on YES. Viva le single cell organisms!

  7. Chris Howard says:

    I’m more interested, (scared) of what a ‘firm’ answer on such a question will mean.

  8. Toni says:

    Definitively in would put my money on. Yes

  9. Any life? On any other world? Yes, of course, yes. It’s just a matter of extending our reach far enough to find it.

  10. Clive says:

    A resounding “yes”. Life exists in every nook and cranny on Earth, from sub-zero Antarctic ice-ponds to billowing undersea chemical factories to the high atmosphere. Given the right range of environmental conditions and enough time, I’m convinced that something fitting the definition of life is a near-certainty throughout the universe. Whether that life evolves into a form capable of contemplating itself… well, that’s another question!

  11. Kate says:

    I think ‘yes’. Due to the sheer size of the universe, there must be other planets with organisms on them of some kind out there. Sentient species may be few and far between of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of planets have small, simple organisms like some of the oldest and most simple ones on our world, plankton, bacteria, maybe moving up to little bugs and fungi.

  12. andyvanee says:

    Least fun answer: If I knew it was about to be settled, the odds are greatly in favor of Yes. A definitive No would require exploring every possible world and every conceivable type of life-form. A definitive Yes would only require one discovery.

    But I’d go with Yes anyhow!

  13. gene says:

    Well, um, the answer HAS to be yes. You cannot prove a negative. So in some way, it will point to extraterrestrial life, faintly or less faintly. Life means self-replicating. My guess: a bacterium.

    • Scott says:

      I should say that the thought experiment postulates that a definitive answer either way was somehow possible. Back in the real world, of course, no one expects NASA to announce the NON-existence of life on other worlds—a logical impossibility for the reasons you state.

  14. Matt says:

    god I hope it’s a yes. “A sad spectacle. If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly. If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space.” Carl Sagan

  15. Boulet says:

    $10000 on Yes, without any hesitation.

    For me the simple fact that we exist proves that life is a possibility that is inherent to matter. So no matter how highly improbable it is, universe is so huge that I’m 100% sure it happened elsewhere.

    (but most likely tomorrow we’ll have an announcement like “there are some irregularities in Titan atmosphere’s chemestry and maybe it’s nothing, maybe it has something to do with submarine methane volcanos, maybe it’s another of the thousands purely phisic explainations or maaaayyyybe there are some bacterias on the surface. Nothing sure.”)

  16. Scotte says:

    Yes. The elements typical for life in the periodic table are among the most common in the universe. And there are countless opportunities, most merely unknown to us.

    But if you’re playing a table at Vegas, it’s inevitable that life exists elsewhere.

  17. Boulet says:

    (and: “would the US governement be kind enough to allow us more budget just to be sure ? Pliz ?”)

  18. Fergus says:

    It would really be very odd if there weren’t life anywhere else in the universe, given the size of the universe, the fact life exists here, and the frequency of ingredients like water, so, yes.

    Also – if we knew that the question of life on other worlds was about to be settled one way or the other, it would be even odder if it was settled in the negative! I mean, how could we know? So if it’s settled, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be in the positive. But I’m probably just being pedantic there.

  19. Stephen says:

    I think that’s kind of easy. Life? I would find it very hard to believe there’s not anything out there that wouldn’t qualify as life. Simple bacteria, at least. Life could have existed and died out many, many times over before we were around.

    Intelligent life? It depends on how you define intelligence. Some would say that intelligent life has never been discovered on this planet yet.

  20. Karen Pratt Smith says:

    Yes, I believe there is life out there and I hope that they are running theirs better than we are here.

  21. I am just waiting for them to tell us:

    “oh, by the way? they are picking us up at 6 to go to Alpha Centauri for dinner… be ready!”

    Can’t wait for that most definitely YES.

  22. Jaku says:

    We can’t even explore the entirety of one planet…. there are innumerable planets within a galaxy…. and we know several galaxies…. soo uhh… “yeeesssss?”

  23. Mangaman says:

    I’d say yes, but in the bacterial sense. And that’s not to say anything against life on other worlds it’s just that the universe is such a big place and we haven’t developed light year travel technology yet so until THAT day arrives I’d say our chances of finding the kind of intelligent life equal to, say a gorilla are slim to none.

  24. Jim O. says:

    Yes. I think the math (that is to say probability, a la the Drake Equation) sides with life, and I side with the math!

  25. Bruce Townley says:

    I, too, side with the math in the Drake Equation.

  26. Pat Race says:

    To the thought experiment, I say Yes.

    .. and how did your post not include this???
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc

    Tomorrow’s announcement, if it was a “Yes” to the question of life on other planets, would probably have the president on the docket. I’m guessing this is more lame.

  27. Tom Galloway says:

    Unfortunately for what I’d initially hoped, David Brin’s pointed out that there are no exoplanetary astronomers on the announced panel. So it’s doubtful this will be an announcement of life discovery.

  28. Man, I know I must sound like some old crazy—but what an exciting time to be alive! It’s just the beginning of what’s sure to be a very long process, but how beautiful that we’re able to finally explore the question outside of static theories!

  29. Noid.EXE says:

    Proving that life exists in at least a single place outside earth is much easier than proving that the whole rest of the cosmos is devoid of it.
    So if the question is about to be settled it’s probably because the answer is YES.

  30. Bluus says:

    I’m glad to see there are no ‘nos’ here. It would be not only foolish but arrogant to say that there is no life anywhere else in the universe. With the countless billions of stars and planets there are other creatures somewhere, I don’t doubt this for a moment. Will we ever see any? Maybe not, that’s some high end tech that’s got to be developed first.

  31. 004forever says:

    I would put my money on ‘yes.’ In an infinite universe, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that life would only develop on one planet.

  32. Mike says:

    Odds say DEFINITELY ‘Yes” so I’d put some good bread on “Yes” but only if that was a Galactic scale or Universal scale.

    If it was just our Solar System, I’d put my cash down on “No.”

  33. Foodveyor says:

    I’d put money on ‘yes’ without hesitation.

    As for tomorrow’s announcement, i bet it’s fossil-unicellular and from Mars.

  34. theriverlady says:

    Has Doctor Who taught us nothing? Of *course* there’s life out there! ;) But they do make some good points in that show- to say there’s no other life out there is just flattering ourselves.

  35. Morgan says:

    I would be yes as well, but let us not discount that we humans could be the very begining of cosmic evolution. The vastness of the universe would imply that there is ample time and space for life to occur in many places at once, but no one really knows what the odds of life forming are. It could be equally as long odds in relation to the number of places for the possiblility of life. What if humanity was the great cosmic accident?Humankind has a knack for surviving and a desire to explore. There is a chance that we are THE life form that is meant to travel to the stars and and spread at least sentient life across the universe. I know this comes off as arrogance, however I think we must hold on to the possiblity that we are the first and/or only current sentient beings in the universe. If we keep this possbility in mind, there would be a huge impetus for humankind to solve our current problems (i.e. stop trying to kill each other!) and continue our story of exploration and discovery from the Earth to the stars. There is a very slim chance that we are “it” right now, and it is our job to spread life throughout the universe.

    Of course NASA will probably prove this wrong in a couple of hours…

  36. Any ‘This American Life’ listeners out there? The last ten minutes of episode 441 talks about all the messages Bebo sent out into space, to make contact: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/411/first-contact

  37. Abel says:

    NO… just because everybody else said yes. I could be the winner of $10+ dollars.

  38. Krudge says:

    Here’s a thought experiment I’d like to see:
    Imagine a plausible form of basic, microscopic that is on a molecular level different from earth life (silicon based or whatever). Then imagine it evolving and extrapolate up to something of at least animal level of complexity. Then imagine how that alien creature might look, sense the world, subsist, etc.
    Of course it would all be fictitious – you could never predict an actual creature this way. But seeing as science fiction almost always shows us two-eyed one-mouthed aliens of roughly humanoid shape, it would be refreshing to see a plausible alien completely removed from the common ancestry of Earthlings. Who is to say that aliens would even sense in the same way as us?