Monday, September 14, 2009

Life - what's that all about?

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I ponder big things - what is life? Why are we here? Is there life out there?

So far, I have no answers. Not a clue.

Although, I doubt ET will be knocking on my door anytime soon. And, our visit from aliens probably won't involve Will Smith. But, I do think that there is life out there. Where? - I have no idea. What will it look like? - I have no idea.

But I do know some properties that biologists use to define life.

First - a living thing has to be capable of regulating its internal environment as distinct from its external environment. It has to be able to get rid of waste, take up nutrients and have some form of metabolism all within its own 'body'.

Second - it has to have a way to pass on hereditary information. In all life on Earth, DNA is passed on to offspring but any molecule that can transmit information will do. A Martian, Lilliputian or gremlin probably won't use DNA, but another breed of informational molecule. There are more 'criteria' of life but those are the ones I think are the most important.

Imagine if we find life forms somewhere else in our universe. Imagine the implications of finding sentient or even non-sentient beings. We will no longer be alone, we will no longer be the only ones, we will no longer be special.

I root for SETI and I love the idea that the forces that shaped life on this planet have shaped evolution of life on other planets as well. I'll probably never know the answers to some of these questions but I refuse to stop thinking and I refuse to stop searching for answers. So should you.

-- Torah Kachur

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