Hello, Internet friends, and a very special hello to those of you who will, I hope, become new Internet friends! Today I’m revealing my theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge, and that theme will be Sciency Words. Specifically, I want to talk about scientific terms related to the search for and study of alien life.
Now before we go any further, I want to make one thing clear: when I talk about the search for alien life, I am not talking about this guy:
No, I’m talking about legitimate scientists doing legitimate scientific research. No conspiracy theories, no pseudoscience. The search for alien life is part of a relatively young branch of science that was originally called exobiology and was later renamed astrobiology.
Now some of you may be thinking there’s a problem. As American biologist and paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson said in 1966, “[…] this ‘science’ has yet to demonstrate that its subject matter exists!” That’s not an unfair criticism. We have yet to discover a single alien organism for astrobiologists to study. Not one. And as of yet, we have no credible evidence that there are any alien organisms out there to study at all.
Yet astrobiologists already have a lot of work to do trying to answer what might be called preliminary questions. Questions like:
- Where might alien life be hiding?
- What should we be doing to find it?
- How will we know we’ve found it, assuming we ever do?
That last question may be the toughest of all. At the moment, we only know about life here on Earth. Aliens might turn out to be so biochemically dissimilar from us that we might not even recognize them as alive!
So starting on April 1st, I hope you’ll join me on this adventure into space. Hopefully we’ll all learn something about the universe, and about the kinds of life that might be living in it. Or at least I hope we can all expand our scientific vocabularies together!
P.S.: I did a lot of writing for this ahead of time, so fingers crossed that astrobiologists do not announce the discovery of alien life before the end of April. If they do, it’s going to be a nightmare for me to rewrite all this stuff!