Life as We Don’t Yet Know It
Episode 16 - by John Rennie click here to directly access the MP3)
Interplanetary probes and space telescopes have been seeking evidence of life elsewhere in the universe for decades. But would we necessarily know alien life if we encountered it? The biochemistry of any organisms that evolve on inhospitable worlds might turn out to be unrecognizably different from anything ever seen on Earth.
On the other hand, discoveries involving meteorites hint that we shouldn’t be surprised if some aliens also turn out to have deep similarities to terrestrial life.
Listen to learn more….
More information about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life:
Rennie, J. “Invisible aliens: life as we don’t know it — yet.” The Savvy Scientist column (April 17, 2012). SmartPlanet.com.
National Research Council. The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press (2007).
Benner, S.A.; Ricardo, A.; Carrigan, M.A. “Is there a common chemical model for life in the universe?” Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol. (2004 Dec.); 8(6):672-89.
McKay, C.P; Smith, H.D. “Possibilities for methanogenic life in liquid methane on the surface of Titan.” Icarus (2005 Nov.); 178(1):274-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2005.05.018
John Rennie (www.johnrennie.net, @tvjrennie) is a science writer, editor and lecturer based in New York City. For 15 years he served as editor in chief of Scientific American. Currently, he writes “The Gleaming Retort” for the PLoS Blogs science blogging network and “The Savvy Scientist” column for SmartPlanet.com, among other projects. He is on the faculty of the Banff Centre Science Communications Program and of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University.