Out of this World… A View on Extraterrestrial Life



I can remember eagerly anticipating to watch a docufiction that aired the spring when I was in 5th grade. It was called Alien Planet, adapted from a book by Wayne Douglas Barlowe, which told a story of two probes searching for alien life on the fictional planet Darwin IV. Rewatching it many years later, I have learned a great amount about the scientific nature of envisioning nonexistent organisms and the basic needs all life needs to succeed regardless of its origin, Earth or extraterrestrial planet.

But, when I was just a kid, I was simply amazed about how much effort went into planning how each species adapted in vastly different ways to their niches and, in some ways, how similar they looked to organisms here on Earth. Surely these were fictitious creatures, but could it be possible that alien life exists?

To start on an almost baseless thought, I consider our presence on Earth not a miracle but a cursor to the knowledge that there can easily be other life forms across other galaxies and the universe. From this still loose but firm deduction, many scientists have sought to find a way in telling just what other beings exist on other planets. Are they unicellular or multicellular, sentient or insentient, humanoid or insectoid (crossing fingers for a real life Starship Troopers-esque planet)?

Though not a proper scientific equation, the Drake equation is one of the many theories that I enjoy reading about. Written for the first Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) meeting, Dr. Frank Drake proposed a formula with elements that one could focus on in order to detect extraterrestrial life:

N = R* – fp – ne – fl – fi – fc – L


N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

Obviously this is no more than a “guesstimate,” but I prefer to think that to err is to be human and that to yearn to find extraterrestrial life, just as SETI does, is a great way to participate in learning our place in the universe. We may, in time, discover these unknown beings but to search for them is not only a need to find out more about them but also ourselves and the deeper understanding of who we are in this vast cosmos.

What are your thoughts on extraterrestrial life and/or on any unknown locations to mankind?

Alien Planet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_Planet

Full Article on the Drake equation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation#The_equation