Would you not say to yourself, "Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
Re: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
« Reply #184 on: Jun 21st, 2017, 11:56am »
Is It Time to Rethink How We Search for Alien Life?
By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer June 21, 2017
WASHINGTON From the lovable, candy-munching E.T. to the deadly Xenomorphs from the "Alien" movies, science-fiction stories are bursting with all kinds of alien encounters. But in reality, we've yet to achieve contact though not for lack of trying.
Plenty of scientists are looking for signs of extraterrestrial life intelligent or not using a variety of methods, Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, told an audience here on June 18 during a talk at Future Con, a festival that highlights the intersection between science, technology and science fiction.
But the more our own technology moves forward and the more humans explore the rapidly evolving concept of synthetic intelligence (smart machines), the more experts suspect that intelligent extraterrestrial life could be advanced in ways that would stymie current efforts to find them, Shostak said.
However, perhaps the first question to ask is why people are so fascinated by the idea of alien life particularly alien invaders, Shostak suggested. This preoccupation with an unseen extraterrestrial threat may be an echo from our distant past, when early humans learned that survival frequently depended on being able to imagine and prepare for attacks from predators or enemies that you couldn't see, he said.
What we now know about the universe suggests that it's very unlikely that humanity is the only form of life in it.
"Work from the last 20 years shows that there are planets all over the place," Shostak said. In fact, NASA announced yesterday (June 19) that the Kepler Space Telescope mission has discovered 219 more exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than our sun), bringing the total of planets discovered by Kepler to 4,034, Space.com reported.
Most stars 70 to 80 percent of them, by some estimates probably host planets, Shostak added. With an estimated 100 billion stars in our galaxy, that gives us around 1 trillion planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Data from Kepler suggests that about one in five of these planets is Earth-like rocky and capable of supporting liquid water and possibly life, "so now you have 100 billion planets in our galaxy that are sort of like Earth," Shostak said.
And with recent studies hinting that there may be as many as 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, that adds up to a lot of planets that might host some form of life.
When you look at it that way, "saying, 'I don't believe in aliens' is a daring position to take," Shostak said.
Signs of life There are three methods most commonly used by scientists to search for alien life, according to Shostak. The first is straightforward enough and is also the one that's most popular with sci-fi writers: "Just go out and find it," he said. This includes missions to send spacecraft to destinations such as Saturn's moon Enceladus, where probes would sample water vapor from surface plumes to see if they hold anything interesting.
The final method and the one practiced by Shostak and his SETI Institute colleagues is eavesdropping on radio signals that an alien civilization might broadcast.Another method is to image distant planets with very large space telescopes capable of detecting enough detail to provide scientists with data about their atmospheres. Big telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope, expected to launch in October 2018 could allow astronomers to analyze the spectrum of light surrounding a far-off planet for evidence of atmospheric oxygen or methane, both of which are known to sustain life on Earth.
"That's how you find intelligent life," Shostak said. Alien A.I.? All of these parameters offer scientists a reasonable range of variables for discovering life but only as long as that life is "the soft, squishy kind, like us," Shostak said. However, a sophisticated extraterrestrial civilization could theoretically have advanced far beyond that, creating forms of artificial intelligence housed in machinery, which simply don't have the same requirements as organic life.
"Machines live forever, and they can go anywhere they don't care about oceans and atmospheres," Shostak said.
With that view, many of the factors that are currently thought to be indicators of life on other worlds, such as liquid water and a breathable atmosphere, are rendered irrelevant. As such, researchers would need to identify other signals to pinpoint which planets might harbor aliens, Shostak said.
But Shostak also offered reassurances, telling the Future Con attendees that at least they won't need to worry about scientists or the government concealing the news when alien life finally does appear the story would be too big for them to hide it for long, he said.
"Will we all start singing 'Kumbaya' and just get along when that happens? I don't think so," Shostak said at Future Con. "But it'll change things. Forever after, you will know as amazing as you are that you're not the only miracle, you're not the only kid on the block. And I think that'll be very interesting to learn."
Re: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
« Reply #190 on: Jul 24th, 2017, 11:22am »
Gearing Up To Search For Life on Enceladus
Professor Jay Nadeau describes her lab's work and proposal to use new microscopes on spacecraft that could visit the icy moons of Enceladus (Saturn) and Europa (Jupiter) to collect and search water samples for life.
Re: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
« Reply #191 on: Nov 14th, 2017, 6:23pm »
Speaking of Enceladus.....
Breakthrough Initiatives Wants to Launch a Private Mission to Enceladus
A private team may send a spacecraft to Saturn's watery moon before a space agency like NASA makes it happen.
By Jay Bennett Nov 14, 2017
The two most exciting places in the solar system may be Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus. The watery worlds are widely considered the best bets to find extraterrestrial life. NASA is now building a spacecraft called Europa Clipper to launch to Jupiter's moon in the early 2020s. Enceladus, however, does not yet have its own mission on the books.
Yuri Milner wants to change that. The Russian billionaire venture capitalist and amateur physicist is the man behind the Breakthrough Starshot mission to send a nano-spacecraft to the closest star, Proxima Centauri, and an initiative called Breakthrough Listen to use powerful radio telescopes to search for signals from intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations. Now Milner's Breakthrough Initiatives has set its sights on Enceladus.
"We formed a sort of little workshop around this idea: Can we design a low-cost, privately funded mission to Enceladus which can be launched relatively soon?" Milner said at an inaugural international space summit called "A New Space Age" put on by the Economist magazine in Seattle, as reported by Space.com. If Milner is serious about launching a spacecraft to Enceladus, it would be a historic feat as the first privately funded mission to the outer solar system. (If it launched today, it would be the very first private interplanetary mission at all.)
The Russian tech magnate went on to say he wanted a spacecraft "that can look more thoroughly at those plumes and try to see what's going there ahead of a more expensive mission that NASA is considering right now, which might take maybe 10 years to launch."
The plumes Milner mentioned are pockets of water vapor, ice, and other material that are ejected from Enceladus's subsurface ocean out into space by way of about 100 geysers near the south pole. Material from inside the moon that is trapped underneath roughly 10 to 20 miles (15 to 30 km) of icy crust is shot up to tens of thousands of feet above the surface, so a spacecraft could fly through the plumes to sample material from the interior without ever actually touching down on the moon. The recently deceased Cassini spacecraft did fly through these plumes, and while the craft did not have the proper instruments to search the material for larger molecules that could be indicative of life, it was able to determine that Enceladus likely has active hydrocarbon vents on the seafloor, filling the ocean with nutrients and heat.
In light of these findings, astrobiologists have been itching to go back to Enceladus to search for life since the end of the Cassini mission in September 2017. Milner mentioned a future NASA mission to the small moon, which was a reference to the New Frontiers program. NASA is currently considering 12 proposals for interplanetary missions under the program, and two of those proposals are for spacecraft to go back to Enceladus. The space agency is expected to cull the list before the end of the year and select one mission for funding in 2019.
Details about the Breakthrough Initiatives' proposed mission, such as a timeline or list of spacecraft instrumentation, are currently lacking. But given the vast resources of the organization, perhaps Yuri Milner and co. and can do something never done beforesend a spacecraft beyond the asteroid belt without the help of a national government. And if they go, they will go in search of an answer to the most profound question in science: Is there life beyond Earth?