Why We Probably Aren't Alone in the Universe

There is not much middle ground in the debate over whether life exists beyond planet Earth. Astronomers either believe the odds of life are impossibly rare or mundanely common. 

What's the Latest Development?

While the Kepler space telescope continues to find planets outside our solar system, the debate over extraterrestrial life, so to speak, rages on. Paul Davies, physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University, argues that even given recent discoveries, the odds are against life existing elsewhere. Davies says the vast number of other worlds is actually misleading because none have been similar in size to Earth or in distance to their parent star, "that the statistical improbability of organic molecules lining up just as they did to create life as we know it is greater than even so large a sample group could overcome." 

What's the Big Idea?

Other scientists, including many at NASA, argue that the basic elements for life--hydrocarbons, water and an energy sourse--are in such plentiful supply that, given some time, it's bound to pop up somewhere. Perhaps it will not be intelligent life, or even life as we know it, but astronomers even suggest there may be cellular organisms within our solar system. The watery moons of Jupiter are one candidate, particularly Europa where the gravitational attraction to Jupiter generates enough heat to keep water in a liquid state. Later this year, a NASA rover will investigate the Martian soil for evidence of past life. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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