Alien life already on earth?

13:22, January 27, 2010      

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An Arizona State University physicist says there’s no reason alien life couldn’t already be among us here on Earth, according to media reports Tuesday.

Paul Davies, known for his popular science writing, said Tuesday that life may have developed on Earth not once but several times. He said the variant life forms - most likely tiny microbes - could still be hanging around "right under or noses - or even in our noses."

"How do we know all life on earth descended from a single origin?" he told a conference at London's prestigious Royal Society, which serves as Britain's academy of sciences. "We've just scratched the surface of the microbial world."

The idea that alien micro-organisms could be hiding out here on earth has been discussed for a while, according to Jill Tarter, the director of the US SETI project, which listens for signals from civilizations based around distant stars.

It is commonly acknowledged that the job of finding proof of alien life in outer space may be more difficult than previously thought.

Frank Drake, who conducted the first organized search for alien radio signals in 1960, said that the Earth-which used to pump out a loud mess of radio waves, television signals and other radiation-has been steadily getting quieter as its communications technology improves.

It is like the switch from analogue to digital television - which uses a far weaker signal - and the fact that much more communications traffic is now relayed by satellites and fiber optic cables, limiting its leakage into outer space. "Very soon we will become very undetectable," he said.

If other technologically advanced societies are going through the similar processes, then the search for them "will be much more difficult than we imagined."

Meanwhile, Paul Drake said scientists at SETI were excited by the possibility of using lasers to send super-bright flashes of light into space for a tiny fraction of a second. But Drake noted that the interstellar equivalent to turning a flashlight on and off only works if a prospective alien civilization wants to get in touch to begin with. "For this to work ... There has to be altruism in the universe," he said.


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