Life in the Universe_ Piero Vallarino Gancia

For a long time we have been interested in the universe and its mysteries. As we have advanced into space discovery and imaging we have been able to reach new frontiers, such as the exploration of the red planet or the picture of the Hubble deep field, the farthest we have ever seen our universe. But certain questions still remain unsolved such as the existence of dark matter or how black holes affect space time continuum. The most daunting question however, still remains that of extraterrestrial life.

To the knowledge of most, some kind of life must exist out there, because the universe is too big and we would be too selfish to think that we are the only possessors of life in its immenseness. To others, the possibility of any life outside the earth is very unlikely or remote since they think the only possible path to life is the one taken by the creatures of earth. Others even, claim they have already seen extraterrestrial life on earth but these people are often taken as fakes.

One famous instance of extraterrestrial sighting on earth was in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. It has been said that alien bodies were recovered there by the military who planned a cover up of the happenings so as the prevent massive panic from ensuing. Since then Roswell has been synonym of UFO sighting but it is still uncertain if anything really occurred.

Our problem is that we do not know all the ways in which life manifests itself. We do not know how to look at different forms of life other than those that we find on earth. Our processors, microscopes, satellites are all setup to find life as it occurs on earth. What if it is occurring in other dimensions and we are not even aware of it? What if it resides beyond our visible spectrum? Outside our imagination?

Parallel universes come to my mind. If our universe is contained within something, a cosmic recipient, and this recipient is contained within another universe we will never be able to find this other place. If there is life there we are even more unlikely to find it. We may be trapped within a space time continuum within which only our planet has life.

Perhaps even, life has existed in the past or future. One theory says that if the density of the universe is greater than its critical density (the mass density of the universe which just stops the expansion of space, after infinite cosmic time has elapsed) then the universe will collapse onto itself due to gravity, thereby reinitiating the sequence of events leading to the Big Bang. This means that there could be a grand cycle in the history of the universe in which everything occurs times and times again. Hence, ironically I may have been doing this exact same homework at this exact same time in a previous cycle. Therefore, we could postulate that there may have been life before as there may be life exactly as it is now in the future.

Even if we do not find anything, our quest for life outside the blue planet is an important part of understanding our human identity and what really defines us as humans. Indeed, the probes Voyager 1 and 2 which contained some of the defining works of our civilization – among them Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and extracts of some languages – were launched and lost in space with the intent of entering in contact and making other civilizations understand who we are.

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