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Instead of thriving on water, extraterrestrial organisms might live in a sea of liquid methane. Or instead of getting energy from the sun, they might thrive on hydrochloric acid. snip........
The report concludes that scientists need to consider an expanded list of characteristics that define life, including so-called "weird" life-forms that may thrive where Earth organisms couldn't.
Since these characteristics make life on Earth possible, scientists have long assumed they are required for life elsewhere in the universe.
But advances in biology and biochemistry in the last decade show that the basic requirements for life may not be so concrete, according to Baross.
For example, he said, the Viking lander missions to Mars in the 1970s were controversial, because although they did not find life, they only looked for Earthlike life.
The Viking Mars mission may have missed signs of life when it visited the red planet 30 years ago, a new study suggests.
If future missions are to set the record straight, the study's authors add, scientists may need to change the ways in which they search.
"We simulated these [tests] that Viking did 30 years ago, this time in extreme regions of our own planet," said Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.
"We found low levels of organic compounds in those soils, but we cannot detect them by the same technologies used by the Viking mission."
Possible Martian life-forms now include a newly discovered class of microorganisms on Earth that can survive and even reproduce at 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 1 degree Celsius)—below the freezing point of water.
The cold-resistant life-forms fascinate scientists, because frigid planets like Mars are far more common in our galaxy than warmer worlds.
Westminster, the University of Maryland and George Mason University are not only finding life where life shouldn't exist, but life, perhaps like nothing of this earth.
Instead of the rods, spheres and spiral shapes microbiologists are familiar with, they're seeing organisms shaped like pyramids, triangles, squares and crescents.
One side of the planet is draped in eternal freezing darkness, the other side is bathed in permanent starlight.
Fields of "stinger fans"—animals that look like tall plants—cover the floodplains. Other strange species abound, from giraffe-like predators called gulphogs to tiny flesh-dissolving tadpoles known as hysteria.
In fact, as a tour of any zoo will convince you, there’s a breathtakingly wide variety of creature designs that work on our planet – and presumably on theirs, too. So why would intelligent extraterrestrial life look anything like us? Probably it wouldn’t, although there’s a mechanism known to biologists as “convergent evolution” that argues for at least a bit of a resemblance.
But it’s a bit extreme to maintain that we are the best design, and therefore convergent evolution will ensure that an intelligent alien looks like your brother-in-law. After all, an extra set of arms might be useful, as would an eye in the back of our heads. A double spine might allow faster and easier walking, and a few extra digits on each hand could make for better tool use or piano playing. The bottom line is that any biological creature we find that’s at least as clever as we are might have, some features in common with us (two eyes, instead of one, for instance). But there’s little reason to think our own design is so wonderfully optimal that all thinking beings will have converged on it.
originally posted by Maxpageant Ok, here is why I think it is reasonable to assume all intelligent life in the universe would be similar to us. Biological life on Earth is based primarily on carbon-12 atoms. Why carbon-12? Because it is the most stable element snip.............
The most advanced life will be based on carbon atom organizing principles, with the possible exception of silicon which is almost as stable.
Take the discovery of a huge body of -liquid- water four kilometers under the ice of Antarctica. This "lake" is 250 kilometers long by 40 wides and is 400 meters deep: approximately the size of Lake Ontario! Confirmed in 1996, this discovery came at a time when the Galileo Orbiter was sending back the most intriguing images of Europa - which have led to the current hypothesis that Europa harbors a liquid or perhaps "slushy" ocean beneath its icy crust.
Ice samples from cores drilled close to the top of the lake have been analysed to be as old as 420,000 years, suggesting that the lake has been sealed under the icecap for between 500,000 and more than a million years.
Biologists suspect that there may be life forms that have been unaffected by surface conditions for up to a million year, making Lake Vostok an invaluable, living biological museum.
At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Galileo Mission, a project has been initiated to probe the waters of Lake Vostok for life - a model for a possible mission to Europa.
The committee that wrote the report found that the fundamental requirements for life as we generally know it -- a liquid water biosolvent, carbon-based metabolism, molecular system capable of evolution, and the ability to exchange energy with the environment -- are not the only ways to support phenomena recognized as life.
The assumption that life requires water, for example, has limited thinking about likely habitats on Mars to those places where liquid water is thought to be present or have once flowed, such as the deep subsurface.
However, according to the committee, liquids such as ammonia or formamide could also work as biosolvents -- liquids that dissolve substances within an organism -- albeit through a different biochemistry. The recent evidence that liquid water-ammonia mixtures may exist in the interior of Saturn's moon Titan suggests that increased priority be given to a follow-on mission to probe Titan, a locale the committee considers the solar system's most likely home for weird life.
Additionally, studies in chemistry show that an organism could utilize energy from alternative sources, such as through a reaction of sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, meaning that such an organism could have an entirely non-carbon-based metabolism.
originally posted by Maxpageant It will process oxygen and water
Summary (Aug 21, 2007): Physicists have discovered life-like structures that form from inorganic substances in space. The findings hint at the possibility that life beyond Earth may not necessarily use carbon-based molecules as its building blocks.
"These complex, self-organized plasma structures exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter," says Tsytovich, "they are autonomous, they reproduce and they evolve".
The work suggests that if bacterial life existed on Mars or on Jupiter's moon Europa, it might still survive locked in icy soils.
But in the much colder environments of Mars or Europa, life might be able to survive while frozen for much longer, Willerslev said.
At those lower temperatures, DNA damage would accumulate more slowly.
So the new results "could suggest that if you had similar life on Mars, it could exist for much longer," he said.
Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."
SCIENTISTS have discovered that inorganic material can take on the characteristics of living organisms in space, a development that could transform views of alien life.