Scientists believe alien life might be more common than they thought

If one recent study holds any water (pun intended), the odds of finding life somewhere beyond the Earth just went up. The scientists behind this research have been examing the odds of planets in binary star systems having stable orbits and axial tilt similar to the Earth’s, increasing the odds that such planets could provide a more stable environment for life to arise and flourish. So… intelligent life, perhaps? They’re not ready to go quite that far yet, but perhaps some sort of life. (NY Post)

While some in the scientific community believe finding extraterrestrial life is “probably going to take a long time,” others believe aliens could be more prevalent than previously thought.

A new study suggests intelligent life is likely to inhabit a star system drastically different than ours. The researchers modeled a theoretical Earth into binary star systems, those with two stars and found that 87 percent of these “exo-Earths” should have its axis tilted similar to that of Earth, an important ingredient for intelligent life.

“Multiple-star systems are common and about 50 [percent] of stars have binary companion stars. So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems,” said the study’s co-author, Gongjie Li, in a statement.

While I don’t want to simply brush away the work of any scientists studying this question, I’ve been leaning more and more toward the idea that all of these theoretical studies are getting pretty close to being moot at this point. Is there other life in the cosmos or is Earth somehow the only place where this miracle took place?

Honestly, our understanding of what conditions are required for life to exist has been undergoing major changes for a while now. One of the earliest examples that really caught my attention was when we discovered life crawling all over those “black smokers” at the bottom of the ocean. These are plants and animals not only existing but thriving in a place that should be been inherently toxic to life as we knew it. And yet, that’s the only place those creatures can live.

Then, when we learned that there was something growing on the outside of the windows on the International Space Station, all bets were off as far as I was concerned. If there are things surviving the vacuum of space, the galaxy is probably lousy with life.

And then we have the UFOs that have been reported by the military. We still can’t entirely rule out the possibility that some humans built them, but it’s not a theory that’s very popular with scientists. Of course, there may not be any living creatures inside “piloting” them. Perhaps they’re drones. Or, for all we know, they are sentient, artificially intelligent machines. The possibilities are endless and fascinating.

But coming back to my original point, I think we’ve traditionally been handicapped in our ideas about life in the universe by the fact that we only have one set of data to work from. We only know for sure about life as we encounter and interact with it on our own planet. It’s all branching out from the same seed, so to speak. (Well, except for the octopuses, of course. They’re aliens.)

We’ve largely been basing all of our assumptions about potential alien life on a requirement that something close to an Earthlike planet is needed for it to begin. Why? For all we know, there’s life swimming around in the atmosphere of Jupiter or crunching its way through the frozen wastes of Pluto. It would just need to have arisen on its own and adapted to the environment it found itself in. Perhaps the real limitations in this discussion don’t come from the lack of familiar environmental conditions on other planets but from our own lack of imagination.

Personally, I’d prefer to think of a universe that’s teeming with life in a dizzying array of forms, much of which we haven’t even begun to imagine. And some of it may be as intelligent as us, if not incredibly more so. (Hey… I work in politics for a living. The idea of more intelligent beings out there is hardly surprising to me.) And if all those things are true, the idea that other forms of life have been visiting us here, as some recent sightings suggest, suddenly isn’t so crazy.

Now let’s figure out how to get one of those tic-tacs to land and see if anyone comes out to say hello.