Hunky Dory

It’s a God awful small affair
To the girl with the mousey hair
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to goDavid Bowie

Yes, that’s right. Suddenly with the discovery of methane, everyone seems caught up in a fever as to whether or not there is life on mars.

Firstly, there is no intelligent life on mars. I’d be prepared to consider that there could be bacterial life, but we’re not going to have a situation where Martians with a heat ray are going to land on Horsell Common with cries of “ullla“.

Secondly, the finding of methane does not in itself proves that there is bacterial life. There are two different potential geological sources, one relating to volcanoes, and the other being certain rocks reacting with water. This would also seem to be a perfectly logical explanation for why methane is only released in certain areas.

Or it might be biological life below the permafrost. It really wouldn’t surprise me if you could get bacteria under these conditions — for a start it seems likely that bacteria is “up there” somewhere, particularly given that people have found evidence of living bacterial cells entering the Earth’s upper atmosphere from space and that bacteria can live in pretty harsh conditions, like hydrothermal vents and the like, so I’m quite prepared to believe life could be found elsewhere.

(As an aside, I’ve heard the panspermia argument given as an “origin of life” hypothesis before — that we were seeded from space. This is quite plausible to me, but is not an origin story: it simply indicates that the origin may have been from elsewhere and does not explain where the bacteria came from in the first place…)

Is there life on mars? I don’t know.

Is there (at least bacterial) life elsewhere in the universe? I’d bet on it, but let’s face it, and at the risk of offending some biologists, alien bacteria aren’t really that interesting (unless they cause some “space plague” or suchlike).

No, the bit I don’t understand is what all the fuss is about. We have not yet identified life on another planet, and even if we do, it will only be bacterial life. That’s hardly impressive. No, if you want to impress me with alien life, I’d like to see The Hoobs, or the Clangers, or at least somebody with a bloody flying saucer…

3 Responses to “Hunky Dory”

  1. Matt responds:

    Those Python boys said it all

    … And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth

  2. The Goldfish responds:

    I thought of this post when I was reading about Intelligent Life in the universe on the BBC just now;

    “While researchers often come up with overall estimates of the likelihood of intelligent life in the universe, it is a process fraught with guesswork; recent guesses put the number anywhere between a million and less than one.”

  3. JackP responds:

    I like that “less than one”. Well, we consider ourselves intelligent, but it’s always a possibility that we aren’t. Either that or that we’re not really real. Or something.

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