There’ s life, Jim, but not as we know it
Scientists concede life likely exists in other parts of the universe
We Are the Aliens 8.30pm, SBS
ANYONE who has ridden a latenight train in Sydney will know that we are indeed all aliens and mostly not the kind anyone would want to take to their leaders. Yet many scientists have yet to stumble on the dark worlds of Sydney commuterdom and remain highly sceptical that life here may have originated in space.
Horizon dispatched a The BBC ’ s crack team to examine this claim armed with a comic book artist, clips
Earth vs from classic movies such as the Flying Saucers and a small arsenal of science fiction music tracks. Deftly wielding these incisive instruments, the team begins its investigation in southern India, where a meteor shower was followed by a mysterious red rain that fell for two months in 2001.
Local scientist Godfrey Louis collected and analysed the rain and discovered to his surprise that it apparently had no DNA, a biological building block common to all life on earth, and it could replicate at 300C. Louis immediately theorised that the rain was extraterrestrial.
Louis is, of course, not the first person to suggest that life on earth may have originated in outer space.
Eminent British astronomer Fred Hoyle and Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, now the director of the Cardiff Centre of Astrobiology, were highprofile proponents of the theory. It even has a name, albeit one that sounds like it may have originated in
Flesh Gorthe 1970s soft- porn flick don : panspermia.
Supporters of panspermia point to a class of bugs called extremophiles, so named because they can live in extreme conditions such as high heat or toxicity. Perhaps the most frightening of these outlined in the program is a bug that not only thrives in the radioactive environment of a nuclear reactor but enjoys snacking on the steel containment vessel.
Horizon finds no shortage of scientists willing to concede life likely exists in other parts of the universe, including a team building a submarine to explore one of Jupiter ’s moons, thought to be the likeliest to harbour life, and a scientist who shoots microbes at targets to prove they can survive the stresses of slamming into the ground on a meteor.
But some are sceptical about the panspermia theory and many have doubts about the red rain, including the original man in black, the NASA scientist charged with protecting us from alien life forms.
The result is that this highly entertaining examination of a contentious issue does not reach a definite conclusion. The argument is thrown into further doubt when tests ordered by Wickramasinghe show that the red rain may have DNA after all. But it leaves you wondering about things beyond the trials and tribulations of life on earth. And these days that ’s n o small thing.
Scientist Godfrey Louis