SETICon 2 conference ran this past weekend in Santa Clara, California to share ideas on what has been discovered of late regarding the possibility of life on other planets and what might lie ahead.Much of the discussion was focused on findings by NASA’s Kepler mission which is dedicated to looking for extraterrestrial life, regardless of form or degree of intelligence in a field of view that represents 1/400th of the Milky Way (image above). Since 2009, the mission has uncovered the existence of over 2,300 exoplanets that researchers believe hold the possibility of harboring some forms of life.
Seth Shostak, SETI senior astronomer, has said that "There are 500 billion planets out there, and bear in mind there are 100 billion other galaxies. To think this [the Earth] is the only place where anything interesting is happening, you have got to be really audacious to take that point of view.
Some leading astronomers are quite confident that mankind will make contact with intelligent alien life within two decades. Kepler allows SETI to hone in on where the odds of life are possibly greatest. Now, whenever Kepler identifies planets most likely to sustain life, the team at SETI is able to focus in on those solar systems using deep-space listening equipment.
"Everything has caused us to become more optimistic," said American astrophysicist Dr Frank Drake in a recent BBC documentary. "We really believe that in the next 20 years or so, we are going to learn a great deal more about life beyond Earth and very likely we will have detected that life and perhaps even intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy."
However, some astrophysicists have warned that we humans may be blinded by our familiarity with carbon and Earthlike conditions. In other words, what we’re looking for may not even lie in our version of a “sweet spot”. After all, even here on Earth, one species “sweet spot” is another’s species worst nightmare. In any case, it is not beyond the realm of feasibility that our first encounter with extraterrestrial life will not be a solely carbon-based occasion.
Alternative biochemists speculate that there are several atoms and solvents that could potentially spawn life. Because carbon has worked for the conditions on Earth, we speculate that the same must be true throughout the universe. In reality, there are many elements that could potentially do the trick.
Advanced intelligent life could exist in forms we can't conceive, according to Lord Martin Rees, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England. Rees, has said he believes the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.
“They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology."
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains,” Rees added.
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