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Mike: on 7/25/07 at 17:17pm UTC, wrote I've sometimes wondered whether or not we would be able to recognize...

Invader Xan: on 7/25/07 at 15:38pm UTC, wrote I must just say, is it not still somewhat "terran" to assume DNA or RNA as...

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FQXi BLOGS
November 19, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Can We Recognize Aliens? [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Jul. 21, 2007 @ 14:32 GMT
The National Research Council has released a report on the search for alien life forms that warns -- rightly, in my view -- against "Terran" thinking. Terran, or Earth-based thinking, is the kind of necessarily blinkered expectation that takes only the Earth as its model. Life out there, Terran thinking assumes, looks roughly like life here, perhaps with some fanciful variations. When H.G. Wells...

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bob wrote on Jul. 21, 2007 @ 23:44 GMT
Temporal problems too. Earth's day, year, and gravity are not likely to be duplicated. Do we recognize a species to whom we look like hummingbirds on speed? Human temporal experience is not shared even with other species here.

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paul valletta wrote on Jul. 23, 2007 @ 22:07 GMT
The most important factor in life-form existence, has to be environment?

You would not expect find Human-Beings walking around on the ocean floor near the mid-atlantic ridge? and like wise you would not expect the species that benefit from the thermal vent hotspots deep in the ocean, to be able to adapt to the climate of the Antartic?

It is the environment that shapes the species.

Rna, in chemical structure form would have been a direct result from the Earths environment many eons ago, if one takes the current environment now (inside the human body), then one can make calculations as to the suitability of Rna over Dna, calibrated from the other components that provide the most suitable environment for the existence of life giving compounds.

I would expect (your posting seems to indicate) if one synthesize's a large number of different molecular environments, and oserve which solutions provide the "best" for Dna survivability, one can deduce that this would be comparable to the actual evolution of the Earth's chemical history, and thus, one can produce subtle changes as observe where life thrives, and where it gets instantly wiped out?

Getting life to "exist" over a long period of time is the tricky part, a perfect environment may have taken eons to occur, and a suitable sustainable environment can be maintained only with small subltle changes, rather than rapid changes.

WRT the 2001 "space oddity" ? stargate sequence, I have always seen it as a time-travel, faster than light speed, that takes Bowman "into his future", where he meets the "older" Bowman/himself?..and of course the opening sequence of 2001 is about the very thing of changing environments?..the apes are quite happy to go about their existence without any friction to each other, then change occurs as a "new" electro-magnetic resonating obilisk appears, and they investigate it's appearence by approaching and touching. This experience quite litirally "shocks" the apes and instigates thought?..then into other local things such as "bones"..the experience of "rain".."lightening"..and everything else they previously ignored!..the rest is as I'm sure you know is "History"!

The film has a layered content, relating to "change" in environments, cause and effect?

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Hal wrote on Jul. 24, 2007 @ 20:52 GMT
An interesting example of this right here on earth is the so-called nanobacteria (sometimes spelled nannobacteria). These are small particles, less than 100 nm, found in various organic and inorganic media which bear some resemblance to bacteria. Some researchers claim to have seen them reproduce in culture and show other signs of being alive. However they are too small to be "life as we know it", too small to hold DNA, ribosomes and the related molecular machinery that we understand as part of life, hence mainstream biology rejects the notion that they are living entities. The experimental data is inconclusive but it looks to me like much of the skepticism is based on the theoretical impossibility of such small organisms rather than hard evidence. This attitude betrays a set of strong assumptions about the nature of life.

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Invader Xan wrote on Jul. 25, 2007 @ 15:38 GMT
I must just say, is it not still somewhat "terran" to assume DNA or RNA as the most likely nucleic acids? There exists on Earth, for instance, PNA - peptide nucleic acid. Essentially RNA without a sugar phosphate backbone.

Indeed, aside from the question of cosmic abundance, why even carbon? Many properties of carbon are shared with other non-metallic elements, notably sulphur and phosphorus. These are often dismissed due to their "high reactivity", but chemical reactivity is a relative concept -- largely a question of kinetics. After all, even water is flammable if kept in a fluorine atmosphere...

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Mike wrote on Jul. 25, 2007 @ 17:17 GMT
I've sometimes wondered whether or not we would be able to recognize sentience in another lifeform and, conversely, whether our civilization would be recognizable as a product of sentience if it were examimed through the lens of a truly alien intelligence.

Consider that to an untrained eye, an anthill looks pretty chaotic. If we could see the pheromone trails, we would recognize a great deal more structure associated with the colony. If we could watch the evolution of the trail networks over a sufficiently long span of time, we would begin to see the colony as a single entity rather than a collection of ants. Now consider how difficult it is for most people to learn to see the ant colony from the latter perspective.

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Count Iblis wrote on Jul. 30, 2007 @ 15:57 GMT
Things are even more problematic if you consider the fact that information is conserved (according to the known laws of physics). So, one could argue that we also exist in the early universe (but we would still subjectively perceive ourselves to be alive in the universe as it is today).

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Blogger William Orem wrote on Aug. 13, 2007 @ 17:28 GMT
Yes indeed, to all of the above. I'm continuing the discussion on a new page to include the hypothesis of DNA Dust that recently came out in the news.

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