He cites a string of remarkable discoveries:
While life is a special kind of complex chemistry, the elements involved are nothing special: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and so on are among the most abundant elements in the universe. Complex organic chemistry is surprisingly common.
Amino acids, just like those that make up every protein in our bodies, have been found in the tails of comets. There are other organic compounds in Martian soil.
And 6,500 light years away a giant cloud of space alcohol floats among the stars … A second independent “tree of life” would mean that the rapid appearance of life on Earth was no fluke; life must abound in the universe.
It would greatly increase the chances that, somewhere among those billions of habitable planets in our galaxy, there could be something we could talk to… Cathal D. O’Connell, “Why the idea of alien life now seems inevitable and possibly imminent” at The Conversation
O’Connell sets out a great deal of evidence for the possibility of life but, of course, the reality is that “something we could talk to” is the real prize. Bacteria on Jupiter’s moon Europa or on an exoplanets would be a sensation for a couple of years but if nothing of greater significance followed for decades … well… life goes on.
He ends with, “The ancient question ‘Are we alone?’ has graduated from being a philosophical musing to a testable hypothesis. We should be prepared for an answer.”
Actually, our culture has buzzed about the possibility, waiting for an answer, for decades; some of us remember it from the Fifties. So it’s worth asking another question: What if, after decades of research, no answer comes? What would that change?
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See also: Faint hopes easily revived: Life may be evolving on closest exoplanet
Forbes cosmology commentator: Maybe we ARE alone
Still no space aliens? That’s because they are keeping us in a zoo!
Tales of an invented god