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The Biology of Extra Terrestrial Life

ETCosmicCat TwoAnnoyingGirlsNext2me #2swag4u TagYoureit Aliens ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ 1234567890 ThisIsFun Tags4everyone!

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#1
Cosmic Cat

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I'll write about it later,

 

but let's see what you have to say!



#2
Jakob

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It may well be carbon-based. Carbon is by far the best element for forming rings and chains and all the other lovely structures that make up life. There's a lot of hype about silicon-based life, but that isn't practical. Essentially, silicon is much larger than carbon and doesn't form intricate compounds as easily. Also, silicon dioxide, the silicon-based version of carbon dioxide, is quartz. You probably don't want to use rocks for important biological functions. Sam Kean's book The Disappearing Spoon (which is really interesting, BTW) outlines this in much more detail.

 

I imagine that the problems that silicon faces would be even worse with heavier elements of the carbon group (germanium, etc.). I've heard some ideas about boron or nitrogen based life, but those can only bond with three other atoms, so any such life wouldn't be as complex.

 

Just because these aliens are carbon-based doesn't mean that they're at all earthly. Some biological chemicals (water, carbon dioxide, oxygen etc.) might be the same as on earth, but there isn't any guarantee that they'll have DNA, RNA, ATP, or other more complex biochemicals. Also, their physical structure won't be the same, most likely. Who says aliens will have brains, hearts, lungs, livers, eyes, etc? Not even all life on earth has those. We may not even recognize aliens for what they are.

 

And, of course, they probably won't be humanoid. The way the media portrays aliens is annoying. Human-looking aliens are bad enough, but aliens that are actual humans are just completely stupid (I am thinking of the movie John Carter). Anything that resembles other earth life is silly too.



#3
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It may well be carbon-based. Carbon is by far the best element for forming rings and chains and all the other lovely structures that make up life. There's a lot of hype about silicon-based life, but that isn't practical. Essentially, silicon is much larger than carbon and doesn't form intricate compounds as easily. Also, silicon dioxide, the silicon-based version of carbon dioxide, is quartz. You probably don't want to use rocks for important biological functions. Sam Kean's book The Disappearing Spoon (which is really interesting, BTW) outlines this in much more detail.

 

I imagine that the problems that silicon faces would be even worse with heavier elements of the carbon group (germanium, etc.). I've heard some ideas about boron or nitrogen based life, but those can only bond with three other atoms, so any such life wouldn't be as complex.

 

Just because these aliens are carbon-based doesn't mean that they're at all earthly. Some biological chemicals (water, carbon dioxide, oxygen etc.) might be the same as on earth, but there isn't any guarantee that they'll have DNA, RNA, ATP, or other more complex biochemicals. Also, their physical structure won't be the same, most likely. Who says aliens will have brains, hearts, lungs, livers, eyes, etc? Not even all life on earth has those. We may not even recognize aliens for what they are.

 

And, of course, they probably won't be humanoid. The way the media portrays aliens is annoying. Human-looking aliens are bad enough, but aliens that are actual humans are just completely stupid (I am thinking of the movie John Carter). Anything that resembles other earth life is silly too.

 

You also have to remember that they might not form cell-like structures. Perhaps during abiogenisis, any other form of life that was constructed would be at the sword to the already existent life that has become us.

 

Another fantastic example of alien extra terrestrial biology here on earth is the creation of the mitochondria and other Endosymbionts (organisms that live inside cells of another organism). How will these Endosymbionts form in another extra terrestrial world with different conditions for life? Cellular respiration may not even be a possibility for extra terrestrial lie.



#4
SG-1

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Jakob, I disagree.  I think any intelligent life would look similar to a hominid.  The number of arms and legs though - who knows.

This is worth a read.

http://www.scientifi...t-look-like-us/


Hey.  Stop reading.  The post is over.


#5
KomissarBojantchev

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They will almost certainly have hand like appendages as well as a higher chance of being terrestrial than aquatic. Chances of having a skeleton vs exoskeleton is 50-50.

 

I personally imagine many aliens would look like a giant amoeba, without any defined structure.

 

I don't know about nervous system configurations. 

 

I get really annoyed that in almost all sci fi shows humans are portrayed as the most unintresting, weakest race while other races have superior biological traits. For example, Vulcan telepathy and strength, Predator's abilities, krogan organ duality etc.

I believe most extraterrestrial species will have different biological advantages and disadvantages, but they will certainly not be outright superior.



#6
Jakob

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Jakob, I disagree.  I think any intelligent life would look similar to a hominid.  The number of arms and legs though - who knows.

This is worth a read.

http://www.scientifi...t-look-like-us/

There may be some intelligent life that is similar, but not all of it will be. Take, for instance, the fact that we are bipedal. Millions of years ago, that gave us an advantage because we had greater visibility in the savanna and could carry things. But what if intelligent life evolves on a planet where there are no tall grasses and has tentacles to carry things with?



#7
zEVerzan

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Jakob, I disagree.  I think any intelligent life would look similar to a hominid.  The number of arms and legs though - who knows.

This is worth a read.

http://www.scientifi...t-look-like-us/

 

Not necessarily. If civilization requires a predatory or scavenging lifestyle, a large, sapient brain and manipulators that put it to good use, then aliens could have cephalopodic or avian / dinosaurian forms as well as hominid. Tentacles, dexterous feet, and prehensile tails / tongues are fair game. Humans only evolved an upright stance because our ancestors were plains apes that needed to see over the tall grass and run with greater endurance.

 

As Komissar said, they would be more likely terrestrial than aquatic, seeing as it's hard to start fire underwater. That's when things start getting very interesting: what if these marvelous creatures breed their tools and technology from plants, animals, and fungi? Of course, their progress would only go at a sea-snail's pace before the discovery of genetic engineering.


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#8
KomissarBojantchev

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What if our galaxy is like star trek's? A prehistoric space faring humanoid race millions of years ago altered the evolution of almost all intelligent life in the galaxy so they could looksimilar to a large extent, leaving it full of humanoids and relatively few nonhumanoids.

 

Do you think its a possibility IRL?



#9
Jakob

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Jakob, I disagree.  I think any intelligent life would look similar to a hominid.  The number of arms and legs though - who knows.

This is worth a read.

http://www.scientifi...t-look-like-us/

 

Not necessarily. If civilization requires a predatory or scavenging lifestyle, a large, sapient brain and manipulators that put it to good use, then aliens could have cephalopodic or avian / dinosaurian forms as well as hominid. Tentacles, dexterous feet, and prehensile tails / tongues are fair game. Humans only evolved an upright stance because our ancestors were plains apes that needed to see over the tall grass and run with greater endurance.

 

As Komissar said, they would be more likely terrestrial than aquatic, seeing as it's hard to start fire underwater. That's when things start getting very interesting: what if these marvelous creatures breed their tools and technology from plants, animals, and fungi? Of course, their progress would only go at a sea-snail's pace before the discovery of genetic engineering.

 

Couldn't you get heat from hydrothermal vents and light from bio-luminescent organisms?



#10
zEVerzan

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What if our galaxy is like star trek's? A prehistoric space faring humanoid race millions of years ago altered the evolution of almost all intelligent life in the galaxy so they could looksimilar to a large extent, leaving it full of humanoids and relatively few nonhumanoids.

 

Do you think its a possibility IRL?

 

Possible? Yes. Probable? Absolutely not.

 

That's nothing more than a hand-wave explanation for why aliens in that galaxy look like humans with make-up and prosthetic foreheads.


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#11
zEVerzan

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Not necessarily. If civilization requires a predatory or scavenging lifestyle, a large, sapient brain and manipulators that put it to good use, then aliens could have cephalopodic or avian / dinosaurian forms as well as hominid. Tentacles, dexterous feet, and prehensile tails / tongues are fair game. Humans only evolved an upright stance because our ancestors were plains apes that needed to see over the tall grass and run with greater endurance.

 

As Komissar said, they would be more likely terrestrial than aquatic, seeing as it's hard to start fire underwater. That's when things start getting very interesting: what if these marvelous creatures breed their tools and technology from plants, animals, and fungi? Of course, their progress would only go at a sea-snail's pace before the discovery of genetic engineering.

 

Couldn't you get heat from hydrothermal vents and light from bio-luminescent organisms?

 

 

Getting light from bio-luminescence would be very cool. However, I'm not so sure about hydrothermal vents, since the water around such a place is boiling hot. I think there's a reason only the hardiest of organisms could survive such a place without heat protection.


I always imagined the future as a time of more reason, empathy, and peace, not less. It's time for a change.
Attention is currency in the "free marketplace of ideas".
I do other stuff besides gripe about the future! Twitter Youtube DeviantArt +-PATREON-+

#12
Jakob

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Not necessarily. If civilization requires a predatory or scavenging lifestyle, a large, sapient brain and manipulators that put it to good use, then aliens could have cephalopodic or avian / dinosaurian forms as well as hominid. Tentacles, dexterous feet, and prehensile tails / tongues are fair game. Humans only evolved an upright stance because our ancestors were plains apes that needed to see over the tall grass and run with greater endurance.

 

As Komissar said, they would be more likely terrestrial than aquatic, seeing as it's hard to start fire underwater. That's when things start getting very interesting: what if these marvelous creatures breed their tools and technology from plants, animals, and fungi? Of course, their progress would only go at a sea-snail's pace before the discovery of genetic engineering.

 

Couldn't you get heat from hydrothermal vents and light from bio-luminescent organisms?

 

 

Getting light from bio-luminescence would be very cool. However, I'm not so sure about hydrothermal vents, since the water around such a place is boiling hot. I think there's a reason only the hardiest of organisms could survive such a place without heat protection.

 

Fire is many hundreds of degrees warmer and we can use that just fine.



#13
Ru1138

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Fire is many hundreds of degrees warmer and we can use that just fine.


But water can transfer heat a further distance thanks to its density.


What difference does it make?


#14
JCO

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It may well be carbon-based. Carbon is by far the best element for forming rings and chains and all the other lovely structures that make up life. There's a lot of hype about silicon-based life, but that isn't practical. Essentially, silicon is much larger than carbon and doesn't form intricate compounds as easily. Also, silicon dioxide, the silicon-based version of carbon dioxide, is quartz. You probably don't want to use rocks for important biological functions. Sam Kean's book The Disappearing Spoon (which is really interesting, BTW) outlines this in much more detail.

 

The carbon assumption is in part based on our environment. Almost all discussions of life start with "life as we know it". That definition has been modified radically in recent decades. A very basic definition of life can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life We have some idea what this means for life based on the RNA and related molicules. What we do not know if RNA is unique in its characteristics or if it might be one of an entire class of molecular structures that can manifest 'life'. There may be environment where silicon is able to take on more of the aspects that carbon exhibit in our environment.


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#15
JCO

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Not necessarily. If civilization requires a predatory or scavenging lifestyle, a large, sapient brain and manipulators that put it to good use, then aliens could have cephalopodic or avian / dinosaurian forms as well as hominid. Tentacles, dexterous feet, and prehensile tails / tongues are fair game. Humans only evolved an upright stance because our ancestors were plains apes that needed to see over the tall grass and run with greater endurance.

 

As Komissar said, they would be more likely terrestrial than aquatic, seeing as it's hard to start fire underwater. That's when things start getting very interesting: what if these marvelous creatures breed their tools and technology from plants, animals, and fungi? Of course, their progress would only go at a sea-snail's pace before the discovery of genetic engineering.

 

Couldn't you get heat from hydrothermal vents and light from bio-luminescent organisms?

 

 

Getting light from bio-luminescence would be very cool. However, I'm not so sure about hydrothermal vents, since the water around such a place is boiling hot. I think there's a reason only the hardiest of organisms could survive such a place without heat protection.

 

 

Actually there is a good deal of microbial life that comes out from within the vent which is why all the other life is there. One theory suggest that life originate within the crust of the Earth at the bottom of the sea. This would explain the difficulty with recreating the process as recreating that environment is difficult. It also suggest an explanation of how life could originate at a time when solar winds were more intense and the Earth may not have been as well shielded as we are now.

 

Currently we see this as a very hostile environment but to early life it may have been a very friendly environment; things changed at a geologic speed and a great deal of resources were easily available.


Confirmed Agnostic - I know that I don't know for sure and I am almost certain no one else does either.


#16
zEVerzan

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Actually there is a good deal of microbial life that comes out from within the vent which is why all the other life is there. One theory suggest that life originate within the crust of the Earth at the bottom of the sea. This would explain the difficulty with recreating the process as recreating that environment is difficult. It also suggest an explanation of how life could originate at a time when solar winds were more intense and the Earth may not have been as well shielded as we are now.

 

Currently we see this as a very hostile environment but to early life it may have been a very friendly environment; things changed at a geologic speed and a great deal of resources were easily available.

 

Yes, but could intelligent life evolve under such conditions? And more importantly, would we ever meet them? Wouldn't feeling at home on the bottom of the ocean near a volcanic vent kind of limit the places you can go?


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#17
JCO

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The point is that it did not stay there, life expanded its environment until it could see the stars and reach for them. 


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#18
zEVerzan

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The point is that it did not stay there, life expanded its environment until it could see the stars and reach for them. 

 

The point I'm trying to make is that basic life and certain ecosystems can survive in such locations, but would such a place give rise to intelligent life, and could they survive outside their native environment without perishing? After all, something adapted to living around boiling water would find the rest of the ocean frigid and their bodies would not be capable to living there. They might find themselves going extinct because they're confined to such a specific environment, and as you said the conditions of a geothermal vent are very hard to replicate.

 

And vice versa, an aquatic intelligent animal like, say, a dolphin with a long tongue adapted to cool ocean water, couldn't get close enough to a geothermal vent because the water is boiling. They could likely not get close enough to practice metallurgy without getting cooked alive, and if they did it would have to be with some kind of protective suit made of heat-resistant hide or something.


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#19
Jakob

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I suppose if they could manufacture something like a rope, they could lower rocks and metal down into the vents and do metallurgy that way, but I can't think of any suitable material that would occur on an ocean world.



#20
zEVerzan

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Kelp would burn, for sure. Metallurgy would just be so hard for them that primitive water tribes just wouldn't even bother, they would do what comes naturally and practice animal husbandry until they get to a point that genetic engineering is possible, at which point they could do pretty much anything in a relatively short time.


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