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Life in the Universe

Date: 04-07-03
Host: George Noory
Guests: David Darling, Raymond Tanter

David Darling, an astronomer, author, and expert on astrobiology was the main guest on Monday night's show. He commented on a wide palette of topics concerning science, space and life in the universe. "You could have a whole different scale and it would still work," Darling said of life on other planets, postulating something as "powerful as a human brain inside a sugar cube."

Regarding the recently photographed dark streaks on Mars, he thought they looked like damp soil that could have been brought about by "microbes that have recently come out of hibernation." Darling, who is planning a new book about teleportation, believes that the physical original (such as a body) being transported, would be dissolved during the process. "You can't retain the original and have the copy at the same time. That's the catch," he said, explaining that the copy is recreated from atoms on the other end.

Life Elsewhere

Dr. David Darling has pondered the idea of life in the universe. Many scientists have found the popular portrayal of humanoid-styled aliens as being statistically unlikely and a case of anthropomorphizing. "Looking at the diversity of life on Earth and thinking about how it has evolved should convince anyone that any aliens will have as much resemblance to us as a doorknob," said Daniel Altshculer, the director of the Arecibo Observatory.

Certainly it's a difficult task to imagine life so dissimilar to ours, that to us it wouldn't even be life. "Our kind of life, biochemical life- needs water…But it wouldn't surprise me at all that we found other kinds of non-water based life. You can find self-replicating vortices in the atmosphere of the sun. There are all sorts of self-reproducing systems in all sorts of environments," said biology expert Dr. Jack Cohen in an interview on ThinkQuest.

One topic that's been batted around in both scientific and science-fiction worlds is what might be an alternative to the carbon-based life forms that we know. Silicon-based life is one of the most frequently conjectured upon, as silicon's crystalline structures are known to grow in a variety of life-like structures. Though it does bear some atomic similarities to carbon, silicon's chemistry appears to be somewhat problematic for carrying out certain biochemical processes. "The complex dance of life requires interlocking chains of reactions. And these reactions can only take place within a narrow range of temperatures and pH levels. Given such constraints, carbon can and silicon can't," Prof. Raymond Dessy wrote in Scientific American.

War Commentary

Raymond Tanter, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, provided war analysis during the first hour of Monday's show. "The US's gross national product is something like 13 trillion and a 100 billion (cost of the Iraqi war) is less than 1% of that. So I think we can afford this war (which is) the equivalent of purchasing catastrophic health insurance against low likelihood, high negative utility events," such as might be caused by the transport of chemical or biological agents from Iraq to various terrorist cells in the U.S., Tanter put forth.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Monday April 07, 2003

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