There has always been a keen interest in alien life in the universe. I remember space-oriented comic books, and characters like Buck Rogers and early television’s Captain Video. Today, of course, the possibility of instant communication around the globe via the Internet, coupled with the complexity of miniaturized handheld electronic devices that do astounding things, unintentionally lead people like me to believe that communication with alien life is nearly at hand.
Certainly classic films like 2001, Close Encounters, and the Star Trek TV series not only enhance this belief with their incredible computerized images, but also suggest the very real possibility that our species is not alone in the universe. A few days ago, I watched Avatar in 3-D and was fascinated by the feeling I was somehow present inside the movie, just like the holodeck on the starship Enterprise.
Some time ago, I reviewed Life in the Universe: the Abundance of Extraterrestrial Civilizations by James N. Pierce. Some of what follows is taken directly from that review. Because of the book’s title, I expected its contents to list a variety of newly confirmed proofs for the existence of alien beings, even though I subconsciously know there are no proofs at this time.
Yet, if life is to be found on distant planets, then the critical environmental attributes needed to sustain it as we know it on Earth must be present in those remote places.
What are those characteristics? By interrelating the dating of rocks and fossils, science is able to date somewhat accurately the origin of human life on our planet. This is an important step in pinpointing when the first primitive beings adaptively evolved into a thinking being—man.
Knowing this fact can help science estimate how long it would take intelligent life to develop on other planets. Obviously, only a technical civilization would be advanced enough to engineer extraterrestrial contact. Life in the Universe introduces the Drake Equation, a formula which has been accepted by science as a means of estimating civilizations within our own galaxy. Here is the equation: