How Theoretical Physicists Can Help Find E.T.


Extraterrestrial life might not resemble the kind of biological life we see on Earth. Credit: Illustration: Space.com; Shutterstock
If and when humans discover extraterrestrial intelligence, should we expect to find it in the form of biological brains or artificially intelligent robots? Could it be something in between biological and technological or something else so out of this world that humans have yet to even fathom it?

By Hanneke Weitering | SPACE.com

When searching for E.T., scientists tend to look for signs of life with certain similarities to life on Earth. But abiding by that narrow definition of life could be the reason we still haven’t found any aliens. Are we truly alone in the universe, or do we simply have no idea what we’re looking for?

Scientists may have better luck finding aliens if they can come up with a definition of life that isn’t so „Earth-centric,“ some researchers have said. In other words, scientists need to broaden the scope of the search to account for the possibility that extraterrestrial life may have nothing in common with life on Earth. Biologists and chemists may have a hard time wrapping their heads around a more universal definition of life, because everything they know about life is based on observations of Earth. Theoretical physicists, however, may have a better approach. [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Alien Life]

„When I think about looking for life, I’m not really thinking about looking for cells on a planet or molecules in an atmosphere. I think about looking for an entirely new sector of physics,“ Sara Walker, an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, said during a panel discussion at the World Science Festival in New York City. During the panel, she and a group of extraterrestrial experts pondered the possibilities of life beyond Earth and the very nature of life itself.

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