Aliens may be woven into the fabric of nature and even ourselves
Could life on Earth have spawned more than once?
It's a simple question on the lips of every sci-fi fan since the dawn of the genre. Why haven't we found alien life? This is known as the Fermi Paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi. It's the idea that the sheer multiplicity of Earth-like planets should produce life somewhere and with a high probability, an alien civilization, if not several. So why haven't we found them or why haven't they found us? Several theories have been posited.
One reason may be that they've already gone extinct. A nuclear war or climate catastrophe wiped them out, already. Another is, since our sun and planet are relatively young, we may be one of the first forms of intelligent life to develop. In 2010, UK Royal Astronomer Lord Martin Rees suggested that extraterrestrial life may be so far advanced that we are not yet at the level where we can recognize it.
“Just as a chimpanzee can't understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains," Rees said. Dr. Frank Drake is an expert on the search for alien life. He says that the digital revolution may be limiting the ability of aliens to detect us, since we are no longer hurling TV and radio transmissions into space.
Professor Paul Davies is no stranger to unusual ideas. The cosmologist as proffered several on extraterrestrials himself. One is that aliens may have visited earth billions of years ago and left a message in the DNA of some early life-form for us to find. He's suggested we start investigating the genomes of bacteria and other creatures to see if we can find any.
Another, the British-born astrobiologist, along with colleague Dr. Sara Imari Walker, proposed that the basic structure of all life may not be DNA or even carbon, but information. After all, DNA is at its heart a set of instructions for putting an organism together. And as the universe since the Big Bang has moved forward on mathematically calculable scientific principles, one must consider math an essential force of the universe itself. A lot of their colleagues take umbrage with the view of life as information, as one might imagine.
Now, Paul Davies has a new theory that alien particles might be interwoven into the fabric of our planet and even live inside our bodies. Advanced alien civilizations may have been able to play with life the way chemists manipulate compounds, and these alien particles could have entered our world. Since some bacteria and other organisms don't act the way scientists think they ought to.
Professor Davies calls it “entirely reasonable" that the simplest life forms came into being more than once on the surface of our planet. So where might such alien life be? Consider bacteria that live inside of poisonous lakes or alongside volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean. “It could be right under our noses, or even in our noses," Davies said. Particles one tenth the size of bacteria cause kidney stones. Might these be alien in origin? Davies thinks so. “It could even be that 'weird life' and real life are intermingled," he said.
Certain bacteria and other microbes may be alien in origin, according to Dr. Davies.
So if there is such an abundance of alien life right here among us, why haven't we detected it? Davies says the reason is our monitoring techniques are tailored to our known biochemical understanding of life. These organisms would operate entirely differently. There are in fact certain microbes like this that have been discovered recently.
Kenneth Nealson at the University of Southern California (USC) found a certain kind of bacterium that eats and breathes electricity. Though he doesn't directly call it an alien species, its properties are unlike any “normal" bacteria that we know of. And in fact, different detection methods must be employed to find them. A similar variety was discovered by microbiologist Derek Lovley at the US Geological Survey, now called Geobacter. Today, these microbes are being employed in things like biological fuel cells and a sewage system powered by the bacteria that transforms sewage into clean water and electricity.
Most biologists believe that life on Earth began with one specific event. But it is possible that it may have emerged more than once, or even on several different occasions. Professor Davies has therefore called for a "mission to Earth." This would be a systematic search in and around unusual locations across the globe to find and categorize weird forms of life that don't fit into the normal definition. “If someone discovers shadow life or weird life, it will be the biggest sensation in biology since Darwin," he said. Davies believes that the cost would be far less compared to say, the search for life on Mars.
Even if such alien life died out, Davies believes we can find biomarkers left behind. “If alternative life had a distinctly different metabolism, say, it might have altered rocks or created mineral deposits in a way that cannot be explained by the activities of known organisms," he said. Should it be discovered that life on Earth started more than once, it would significantly increase the credibility of this theory.
The vast majority of life on our planet consists of microbes. Yet, many have never been analyzed or had their genomes sequenced. Today, it's still hard to detect other forms of life outside the normal, biochemical means. "We could be surrounded by little microbes intermingled with known life and be completely unaware," Davies said.
To see Prof. Davies speak on encoded alien messages inside of microbes DNA, click here:
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
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