Are We Alone

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P Lovecraft).

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Are we alone? Who else is out there, among the stars. I used to sit and stare at the sky for hours, wondering who was staring back. Our universe is constantly expanding, and in a sense, evolving. The evolutionary tree of our world is what we know as the “tree of life,” but what if there is another separate tree of life far beyond what we could understand? Imagine a museum with a sample of every living creature in it. We could divide this museum into two halves: Life as we know it, and Life as we dont know it, challenging our understanding of what life could be.

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Most organisms that we as humans are familiar with, plants, fungi, animals, insects, are all a part of one of the smallest branches in our tree of life. We are a microcosm compared to the vast diversity of bacteria living. The two largest branches of our tree split off into bacteria and archaea. Yet all of these organisms contain a combination of the same 16 ribosomes, the building blocks of what we understand life to be. However, there are over a million possible substitutes to DNA, of which the organisms built by these strands could be very similar to life on earth. Similar molecular structures, body builds, and evolutionary trees would be probable.

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All life forms that we know of are carbon based. These carbon based lifeforms fall into pre designated categories that we as human beings have created. But what if they were silicone based? Silicone is extremely similar to carbon, being considered its fake twin. Carbon is one of the most common elements in our universe, capable of creating large stable molecules with 4 way bonds. Silicone however, has much weaker bonds, but the same availability. Silicone has the ability to thrive in extreme environments, opening up the possibility for organisms to thrive in what we understood to be uninhabitable planets. Life forms made of Silicone would be secluded to oxygen-free environments, as when silicon comes in contact with oxygen it instantly crystallizes. The opportunities for these beings to thrive in ways we don’t even understand are endless.

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The possibilities for alien life to thrive on unknown planets is near endless. Trillions of planets in existence, with ranging atmospheres, gravitational pulls, and composite environments. Depending on the star’s spectral class, the heat of the star will create vastly different environments. Planets orbiting blue stars will have higher surface temperatures and atmospheric scattering, whereas red stars, such as red dwarfs, will do the opposite.

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Plants follow a very predictable evolutionary pattern. Early prehistoric plant matter contained a pigment called Retinal, which is a polyene chromophore. Simply put, an earlier base of chlorophyll, which is what allows plants to photosynthesize. Retinal is a more universally common pigment, which causes plant life to be different shades of purple. Alien flora would likely be purple and not green on planets closer to the goldilocks zone, being similar to earth. Planets orbiting blue stars however would have redder-orangeish plants, as they feed off energy rich blue light. Planets orbiting dimmer, red dwarves would have black pigmented leaves, adapting to absorb all wavelengths of lights. This alien vegetation would be the base for all ecosystems.

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Convergent evolution is the process by which organisms independently evolve similar traits and abilities such as flight and echolocation. This process happens in both plants and animals, which is reflective in how organisms could and will evolve in alien environments. One of the most prominent factors that could affect alien evolution would be the G Force of its home planet. Planets with high gravitation pulls would in turn host larger organisms with supersized skeletal structures and muscle mass. Smaller low gravity planets would struggle to contain surface life, but would allow for complex cave systems to provide prime ecosystems. These caves, with stabler temperatures and protection from harsh weather conditions, are the perfect setting for life to thrive. If surface life managed to evolve on these low gravity planets however, they would be allowed to grow to sizes beyond our comprehension. Forestry would tower to the sky, unburdened by gravitational restraints, more easily able to transport nutrients up and down. Fauna would be unlike anything we’ve seen before, without the need for bulky muscle mass or skeletons. Sadly, complex multicellular organisms would be a universal rarity, with years of evolution and specific conditional needs cutting down the chances for success.

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Life as we don’t know, these silicon based lifeforms like I mentioned earlier, would most likely be chemosynthetic, or derive their energy from breaking down crystallizations and minerals. Such beings would have life forms that measure thousands of times longer than any earthen creature. With ultra-Slow metabolic processes, these beings could last for extensive periods of time. Furthermore, as stated earlier, these creatures could reside in extreme environments, from molten rock to freezing temperatures. Even in the vacuum of space itself, there’s the possibility for microscopic plasma-based life forms to exist within the dust clouds of empty space.

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“Is it really just us? Are we alone in this vast universe of energy and matter and chemistry and physics? Well, If we are it’s an awful waste of space. But what if we aren’t?” (Jill Tarter).

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