We daydream about it at some point in our lives. Finding alien life out there or perhaps it even comes here. We have been shown so many sides of the prospect. Some tend to believe that any alien would come with hostility to conquer us and use our planet’s resources. While others tend to believe any civilization that grew far enough to be able to travel the stars would have grown out of any hostile ways. But they could be at some other point along the spectrum.
In the past few years, the possibility of finding aliens has gone up. As space centers such as NASA find more and more planets, some number of those are in what is known as the goldilocks zone. Those would be planets that are close enough to the sun to allow for liquid water, but not so close that all of that water would boil off. That does bring up the question of what does alien life need. We call the goldilocks zone that because it is just right for life as we know it. But is that all there is?
Let’s take a look at Star Trek and how they have shown us alien life. Through all the iterations of the show and movies the Star Trek franchise has had the chance to show a wide variety of what life may be like out there. Ranging from humanoid life to that classic line of “It’s life, but not as we know it”. So what do modern scientists think of how this show showed us life from across the galaxy?
The simplest answer is that they can’t agree. Anyone who has seen the show has most likely noticed that a vast sampling of lifeforms looks roughly like humans. Normally two or so arms, a pair of legs and some head(s) all roughly where we have them. From a show perspective, it works because anyone can look at it and see that it is life. But there are some groups that believe we could find numerous species of aliens this way.
Some groups would make the argument that this rough shape and layout is the way that life would evolve and that any higher intelligence species would have spent years forming into this. Some species might develop more hair or different eyes, but the theory would go that the overall shape is just the way all life would grow into.
Another group supports the idea of many humanoid species but gets there on a different path. They look at the issue with the idea that some ancient spacefaring race traveled the galaxy and seeded life onto different planets. It might have been as an experiment or as colonies, but this belief goes that these different groups started similarly and adapted to their different environments.
Of course, it would be too easy for us all to agree that most life would look like us. What if Star Trek got this point wrong and we are the minority. The show does go on to show us different types of life, from gas clouds to various blob like life. Perhaps the form of humanoid is distinct to this planet and our environments. Other species could develop with what was available on their own planet. There may be life out in the galaxy that would not even require water.
And perhaps these higher level beings aren’t the life we will find at all. When you look at our planet humans make up a very small percentage of the life on it. You have to get much smaller to find the majority. Microbes make up the largest percent of life on our planet. We’ve found that some of these tiny organisms can live all over, including the near vacuum of space. Just take a look at the little tardigrade. Maybe if we are to find life out there it won’t be some super intelligent life form for us to learn from. Perhaps it will just be microscopic bits of life.
Though we still have the problem of determining just how we figure out if it is life. Sure, Dr. McCoy had his tricorder, but many people have been pondering if life is that much different than what we know, will we even notice that it is life?
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