Archive for June 6th, 2016

“The universe is hardwired to be an organic chemist,” says [Scott] Sandford.  “It’s not a very clean or tidy one, but it has  really big beakers and plenty of time.”
Says NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay: “A hurricane is a self-organizing, self-propagating system with a life cycle.  It’s born, it grows, it eats, and then it dies.  Why isn’t it alive?”
The answer, in this view, is that it can’t remember what it’s doing or how it’s changed and pass those improvements on.
Still, life as we know it —  warm, watery and carbon-based — might remain the best model.  Chemistry and evolution are both, in their own ways, lazy.  They take the simplest routes to elegant solutions.  Perhaps there are other ways to get the biological job done, but it’s hard to come up with a better alternative.
Ultimately, as many astrobiologists argue, the question of life in space might be as simple as a three-part formula: chemistry plus energy plus time.  McKay likes to cite what’s know as the zero-one-infinity rule, which applies in a lot of scientific theories but especially in the search for life.  We know that the number of planets in the universe with life is not zero.  We know so far that it’s at least one.  If we do find another, it makes no chemical or mathematical sense for the total potential figure not to be unlimited.
“So what we’re searching for,” says McKay, “is two.”  That search is as big as the universe — but so is the promise it holds.
  —  Jeffrey Kluger
From his article: “The Perfectly Sane Case For Life In Space
In Time Magazine, February 22-29, 2016
On This Day In:
2015 Still Trying
2014 Destiny, n.
2013 No Apologies
2012 Utterly Convinced
2011 A Key To Effectiveness

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