The acronym E.T. gained widespread popularity when the eponymous 1982 movie came to the big screens across the world. The movie “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was co-produced and directed by the multi-awarded Steven Spielberg. The movie not only broke box-office records during its time, it also is considered a breakthrough for sci-fi movies dealing with alien or extra-terrestrial life. Before E.T. or extra-terrestrials became a byword for alien life or alien contact, aliens we conventionally portrayed in a negative manner. Sci-fi flicks would usually tag aliens with villainous roles such as invaders, marauders, abductors and mad scientists. All these roles and notions changed with the emergence of the 1982 iconic movie by Spielberg.
Although from a grammatical standpoint, the term “extra-terrestrial” is technically incorrect when used as a noun, it spawned the scientific terms “extraterrestrial life” and “alien life form” among other terms taking root from the prefix “extra-” added to terrestrial, which means anything that pertains to Earth or related to land. In simple terms, extraterrestrial life is life that does not originate from Earth.
The interest in extraterrestrial life saw its widespread emergence in the 20th century. By the middle of this century, the search for signs of extraterrestrial life intensified along with the Space Race between the United States and Russia. Not only was the capability for space travel an imperative task during this time, but the discovery of evidences of extraterrestrial life also became equally important for many scientists.
The theory about extraterrestrial life came from the Copernican principle, which states that life on Earth is nothing special or unique in the universe. Thus, from this principle sprouted the theory that somewhere outside our own solar system, there are countless stars and planets which could also host extraterrestrial life and possibly intelligent alien life form.
Guided by this principle, more and more scientists are joining the ever growing community of extraterrestrial life hunters and Earth-like planets. Several scientific evidences that support the theory of life beyond our home planet have surfaced in recent times. Here are several of these plausible evidences:
- Scientists at National Institute of Aging (NIA) have closely examined the mathematics of DNA evolution for several years now. They have recently reached the conclusion that DNA could be older than Earth itself, about 9.7 billion years old (more or less twice the Earth’s age!).Dr Alexei Sharov of NIA gave a modest calculation that it takes around 376 million years for DNA to double its complexity. And basing on the calculated age of DNA, it could be possible that it originated beyond our solar system and before Earth was born.
- Scientists have recently discovered bug species that survive the vacuum of space and its extreme radiation. It could be possible that these bugs are extraterrestrial hitchhikers that took a ride in comets and asteroids.
- Another discovery of the meteor rock that originated from Mars shows fossils of single cell organisms. This reinforces the possibility of the second evidence that life forms may be capable of catching a ride from Mars or from other sources of life.
- A possible reinforcement to evidence no. 1, astronomers detected the organic compound, cyanomethanimine, a molecular building block of one of the components of DNA (Adenine) from a cloud of interstellar gas 25,000 light years away; nearer home at 400 light years away, glycoaldehyde (an important organic compound for the formation of RNA) was detected in the binary star system IRAS 16293-2422.
- Earth-like planets have been recently discovered within our Milky Way galaxy. Some of these planets have distances away from their central stars that are nearly similar to our Earth (habitable zone). Also, some of these Earth-like planets have comparable temperatures to Earth. Thus, the possibility of life forms existing on these planets is probable.
Our fascination of life forms other than ours can also be part of our evolution and development. We are inherently curious and social beings. We are always wondering what’s out there in space, if there could be other intelligent life forms aside from us. We also have this longing to connect and communicate with beings other than those that reside on our planet. There may different ramifications for our effort to communicate with alien life far away from Earth, and thus we need to have responsible and vigilant use of our intelligence in attempts to make contact.