Saturday, December 4, 2010

The possibility of life

It was an interesting week for our notions of the universe. First, we get a new number for the total number of stars in the observable universe - How many stars are there? More than you thought ... and second, NASA scientists announce the existence of arsenic feeding life in Arsenic-feeding bacteria find expands traditional notions of life.

The quick summary is that 1) there may be as many as 300 sextillion stars in the observable universe; and 2) our previous definition of environments that will support life needs to be expanded to include what was previously considered toxic.

In the "stars" article, the lead scientist says

"There are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars"

... which is not to say that we should expect visits from little green men any time soon, but it's food for thought.

I don't imagine that the discovery of arsenic-incorporating bacteria indicates that we'll find arsenic-incorporating intelligent life, but it tells us that self-replicating organisms can be found more places than we originally thought - with the news that there **ARE** more places than we originally thought, the possibility that we could some day find simple extra-terrestrial life just got some real encouragement.

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