Is There Life on Other Planets?

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There are many stories of alien encounters, and you need only read a newspaper or type the term into Google to find them. Regardless of the likelihood of these accounts, it is a fascinating topic and many of us believe, that due to the size of the universe, alien life must exist simply by the laws of probability. But just how founded is that belief? And if we were to find them, what would they look like? Is it possible that they could already have made contact?

Of course there are those who believe that these accounts are accurate and that this is a common occurrence. Many even believe that there is some form of cover up in which the government is aware of the aliens’ regular presence on Earth and that they have even been in talks with them. Conspiracy theorists point to the events such as ‘Roswell’ and claim that these were cover ups for alien encounters (when in fact official reports describe the crashed UFO in question as a weather balloon).

Other theories explain aliens as having always been a part of human culture. This theory is referred to as the theory of ‘ancient astronauts’ which suggests that our boosts in technology and culture came from aliens who visited our planet during the development of civilisation. This theory is supported by cave paintings dating back to the Stone Age that show humanoid figures wearing what appear to be space helmets and even sitting in what appear to be space ships. Some religious iconography could also be interpreted as being a primitive description of alien contact – particularly the Egyptian mythology that is based all around ‘Gods’ coming from the sky and which again seems to involve crude drawings of space ships and similar objects. The pyramids even were intended as ‘stairways to heaven’, and some ‘ancient astronaut’ theorists even believe that the pyramids must have been built by aliens. Some discoveries such as a working battery from before we discovered electricity, and an accurate map of the world dating back to before Christopher Columbus’ time all seem to support this theory and can be read about in the book ‘Chariots of the Gods’.

However, the likelihood that aliens are in regular contact with humans is incredibly remote. The chances of alien life existing elsewhere in the universe is conversely very high; with the size of the universe seemingly spanning millions of light years and constantly expanding it seems actually more unlikely that we are the only examples of life in the universe – the correct circumstances must have occurred elsewhere simply because there are so many other stars in the universe. In fact many theorists believe that life on earth originally came from the stars as amino acids carried on meteorites (amino acids being the building blocks of life). The ability of life to exist in seemingly completely inhabitable parts of the Earth – such as in the abyssal regions of the sea, in perfectly dark caves and deep near the Earth’s core, suggests that life could exist even on the more remote and inhospitable planets in our own solar system – and scientists have yet to rule out the existence of life on Mars.

If there is life on Mars though, it is highly unlikely to be the Greys kind. More likely it will be the kind that is found in those inhospitable parts of the Earth – single celled organisms and the others. This is simply due to the fact that there have been no signs of life in earlier Mars missions, as well as the fact that life would be difficult to sustain on a cold planet with no oxygen and no water (though there is excitement surrounding the ice caps that have been discovered there). Life certainly could be sustained there with human intervention if the ice caps were melted and plants were introduced (a process known as terraforming).

It is likely that this is the kind of life we would find on most other planets when you consider that most have more unpleasant environments, and when you consider that amongst all the life on Earth over millions of years, only humans have developed a civilisation and technology (not necessarily a sign of superiority, but necessary for contact to be possible). This shows that it is a rare occurrence at least. Furthermore, even at our slightly more advanced level (and it is likely that we are a relatively young civilisation), we have yet to discover the means for space travel that could take us to other planets outside of our solar system.

In fact, scientists such as Einstein believe that it would not be possible – the reason being that it is impossible by the laws of relativity to travel faster than the speed of light. Not just for humans – but for any substance. Even if we were to be able to travel at light speed, we would be unable to reach planets outside of our solar system with them being hundreds of light years away – literally this means that it would take light hundreds of years to reach them (when you look up at the stars this lag actually means that you are looking at stars as they were millions of years ago, and often they no longer even exist – you are literally seeing back in time).

That said, most scientific theories about the universe have at some point been proven wrong, and there is as yet no cohesive ‘theory of everything’ to be offered by science. Thus it is possible that further discoveries could put this theory into contention. Some suggestions have already looked at how future space travelers, or indeed aliens, could get around this problem – for example by freezing themselves cryogenically until they reach their destination, or even by ‘bending’ space around their ship and allowing two points to meet so that they might be able to push through before returning space to it is normal shape. This is one possible form of ‘warp drive’ as seen in science fiction films, or of teleportation, and is often referred to as a ‘worm hole’ after the way the ship would push through space like a worm pushes through an apple.

Similarly it could of course be possible that aliens might exist within our solar system. Unlikely though this may well be, it could be possible if those aliens were not dependent on the same things as us in order to live. Our understanding of life is that it requires light and oxygen to survive, but if life evolved on another planet, perhaps it might breathe something other than oxygen? Plants do, so why not aliens? Suggestions that something is not ‘possible’ for alien life may well be the result of a cognitive bias that makes us presume that they are in anyway similar to us and follow the same rules. If life existed today on Venus, they might breathe an entirely different substance, or not breathe at all, and would be local enough for a light speed craft to reach us for regular or semi regular visits.

Of course there is one glaring problem with this theory – and that is: why do not most of us know about it? Why would it be a secret? And how could the government cover p such a huge discovery? If aliens helped us throughout history, why are not they here now? How could our government regulate the behaviour of an entire alien civilisation more advanced than our own?

In conclusion then, we do not truly know enough about the workings of the universe to say with any certainty whether life is possible on other planets, and certainly not whether it could have (or has) visited Earth. However it seems likely that it might exist in some form or the other, and in terms of intelligent life… Maybe we should not rule anything out.

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Adam Sinicki

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