In 1960, a young astronomer by the name of Frank Drake pointed the Green Bank radio telescope at the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani…and listened for the sounds of an alien civilization. Drake’s little experiment marks the official beginning of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Since that time, SETI has continued to scan greater parts of the sky, listening over wider and wider bands of the radio spectrum, but the silence has been deafening. While many have taken this as a likely sign that the cosmos is largely empty, it may be more likely that SETI’s search has been far too restricted in its scope, relying on just one particular 20th century technology that is already fading in use. As the psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna once dryly noted, “To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant”.
To broaden the search, other technologies of transmission have been suggested, such as lasers. But even those ideas seem limited to our cultural ideas of an ‘advanced’, artificial technology – but which seem likely to be considered as quaint just a century or two into our future. What if, however, aliens had already left a message for us, ‘hidden in plain sight’, since the dawn of history? What if we only had to look within ourselves?
A paper published last year in Icarus, the prestigious journal of planetary science, asked if it was possible that terrestrial life on Earth had been ‘seeded’ from beyond the Earth – and if so, does the building block of that life, DNA, contain any sort of message from our alien creators. Using mathematics, the authors of the paper – “The “Wow! signal” of the terrestrial genetic code” – looked for evidence of a statistically strong ‘informational’ signal in the genetic code, with surprising results:
Here we show that the terrestrial code displays a thorough precision-type orderliness matching the criteria to be considered an informational signal. Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of the same symbolic language. Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing rather than of stochastic processes (the null hypothesis that they are due to chance coupled with presumable evolutionary pathways is rejected with P-value < 10–13).
The signal displays readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality.
(For counter-comments against the claims of the paper, see this Pharyngula blog post).
Interestingly, this was not the first time that Icarus had featured a paper entertaining the idea of ‘biological SETI’. In 1979 the journal – under editor Carl Sagan – published a paper titled “Is bacteriophage φX174 DNA a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence?”, written by Japanese biochemists Hiromitsu Yokoo and Tairo Oshima. Given how crazy the idea sounded, Sagan asked a young protégé, David Grinspoon (now a prominent astrobiologist in his own right), to check out the paper to assess whether it was legitimate. Here’s how Grinspoon describes the paper in his book Lonely Planets:
A little background will help here… Prime numbers are those that cannot be made by multiplying together any other whole numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and on up, as high as you want to go. No known formula on natural process generates them. If you see primes, you know that mind is not far behind.
A widely accepted idea for interstellar message construction is to send digital pulses that repeat with a number that is the product of two primes multiplied together. This would suggest that a two-dimensional picture is being sent. For example, if you received a message that was repeating a sequence of 143 pulses, you, or your machine, would say, “Oh, 143 is 11 times 13, and these are both prime numbers. Let’s make an 11-by-13 array and see if there’s a picture encoded here.” This technique – using primes to create easily decoded 2-D images – is a pillar of SETI theory.
Now back to the message in that virus, bacteriophage φX174. It’s the first organism for which the entire genome was decoded. A remarkable feature discovered was the presence of “overlapping genes”. These are sequences of nucleotides that can be read in two different frames, to encode for two completely different proteins. In other words, the DNA sequence CAATGGAACAACTCA, can be read as the three-letter “words” CAA TGG AAC AAC TCA, and this will instruct a cell to start building a protein by putting together the five amino acids specified by these triplets. However, starting at a different letter, the same sequence can also be read as ATG GAA CAA CTC, and so on, which will build a completely different protein. It ais as if you could write an English sentence criticizing a bickering couple, “CAN YOU TWO NAG”, that also contains a message about the ninth inning of a baseball game, “ANY OUT WON”, except that to make proteins you would have to continue in this overlapping mode for hundreds of words, with both sentences making complete sense.
But wait, there’s more. This organism (φX174) contained not one, but three pairs of these overlapping genes. And, if you count the number of letters in these overlapping sequences, you find that they are 121, 91, and 533. Each of these is the product of two prime numbers (11×11, 7×13, and 13×41). How weird is that? Here was the widely accepted signature of an intelligent message, turning up in the strangest of places.
Both the researchers, and Grinspoon, did what any SETI enthusiast would do: they attempted to use the prime number pairs to create two-dimensional pictures. Unfortunately, the pictures looked like random noise, and despite “trying all kinds of tricks” to decode them, no coherent message has ever been uncovered. (Below are “messages” that Grinspoon created from the DNA ‘information’).
Though no alien message was found, the 1979 Icarus paper seems decidedly ahead of its time from the vantage point of the year 2014. Synthetic biology is taking leaps forward: in 2010, a team led by American biologist Craig Venter synthesized a long DNA molecule containing an entire bacterium genome, and placed it within another cell. This ‘synthetic organism’ has watermarks written into its DNA, including the names of the 46 contributing scientists and a series of quotes from the celebrated Irish novelist James Joyce. And ‘genetic artist’ Joe Davis is planning to encode the whole of Wikipedia into the genome of an apple in order to echo the the forbidden fruit that grew in the Garden of Eden – a literal “tree of knowledge”.
Note the amount of information that Davis is going to cram into the apple. Any alien ‘message’ hidden within our own DNA need not just be a short sentence; rather they could implant entire books . As science writer Dennis Overbye has commented:
The human genome…consists of some 2.9 billion of those letters — the equivalent of about 750 megabytes of data — but only about 3 percent of it goes into composing the 22,000 or so genes that make us what we are.
The remaining 97 percent, so-called junk DNA, looks like gibberish. It’s the dark matter of inner space. We don’t know what it is saying to or about us, but within that sea of megabytes there is plenty of room for the imagination to roam, for trademark labels and much more. The King James Bible, to pick one obvious example, only amounts to about five megabytes.
And the idea of biological SETI seems to make sense. Physicist George Marx wrote in support of the concept by posing a question: “How does one send a letter to a faraway planet, a letter that is light enough for easy transportation, that multiplies itself on arrival, that can correct misprints automatically, and that will be read definitely by the intelligent race of the target planet after they have reached scientific maturity?”
But is it likely that we will ever find an alien message within DNA, given the diversity of life on Earth, and the complexity of both finding and decoding such a message? Perhaps further advances in recording the genomes of various life forms, combined with advances in computer power and algorithms built to detect such patterns, will allow us to do so. As the very first SETI paper remarked, “The probability of success is difficult to estimate; but if we never search, the chance of success is zero”.
Aliens blamed for spate of cow mutilations in Argentina after ‘strange lights’ seen in sky
© Express, UK
Local farmers in Santa Fe, north-eastern Argentina, have seen seven cows killed and mutilated with some believing extraterrestrials are killing the bovine animals.
Witnesses claim the cows look as if they were attacked with lasers, while strange markings were also found on their tongues and genitals.
Farmers in the region are blaming aliens or the mythical chupacabra – a myth from South America which supposedly feeds on animals’ blood.
Norberto Bieri, owner of one of the seven cows, told local media: “They did not have tongues or flesh around the jaw, but they did not take any animals away or remove their bones.
“It seems as though the clean incisions were done with a laser as there is no trace of a knife being used. The cows did not have signs of blood and nothing had appeared to eat them.
“Some people say chupacabra or aliens did it. Others believe it was rodents.
“The truth is, the cows are dead and there are no answers as to why.”
Mr Bieri added that there had been other recent cases of mutilated animals.
Samples were sent to the lab to be analysed and results indicated the cattle had not been shot or poisoned, adding more mystery to the case.
However, experts offered their, more logical, opinion.
A rat-like animal called hocicudo is endemic to South America and some believe they are responsible.
The day that the Aliens attacked Tuscany, in Italy
During the autumn of 1954 throughout western Europe several surprising events occurred of encounters with strange flying objects (UFOs) and encounters with extraterrestrial beings, according to the sources of the testimonies and victims that relate their experiences, most were peasants and villagers. Let’s talk about a case that happened in a small town in Tuscany, Italy.
Rosa Lotti Dainelli was a forty-year-old peasant, mother of four children, owner of a farm called “La Collina” in the locality Cennina7 (a small town near Biicine, in the province of Arezzo, Italy).
Monday, November 1, 1954. That morning Rosa was going to go as usual to the church in her town where she used to go, that day she had got up very early at half past six in the morning as the feast of all was celebrated Saints and had several important things to do. Rosa that day decided to release a new dress that she had kept for the occasion and some new shoes.
He left his house with a large bouquet of flowers that he had taken the day before with the intention of going to church after going to the cemetery to visit his deceased relatives as usual on that day. He took a small path that would take her first to the place where he was going. Halfway through he realized that there was a lot of humidity at night because of the abundant morning dew, he stopped to take off his shoes so they would not get wet holding them with his left hand since in the other hand he was carrying the bouquet of flowers and he continued the path barefoot on the path.
Rosa went somewhat distracted looking at the flowers she was carrying and went through a small forest, when she suddenly stopped and was surprised to see a strange device parked on the ground by the side of the road.
Rosa for a few seconds remained motionless and not knowing how to act but minutes later decided to continue moving slowly down the path of the forest. The farmer, without being able to look away from the apparatus, was curiously observing this strange object as she continued to walk, an object which has the shape of two cones, was of a brilliant brown metallic color with golden reflections.
Afraid of this, she decided to approach very slowly to observe more details of that machine. Approached about 5 meters away from the device, Rosa from there could already appreciate the dimensions of that object, which had a height of more than 2.5 meters by almost 2 meters in diameter and a little further down there was a small door which was totally open.
Curiosity overcame him at that moment, making him approach the opening, where he could see two small armchairs facing what looked like a very illuminated board. A kind of broad band surrounded the junction of the cones and above this band were observed several small windows similar to blinking lights similar to “portholes”. Suddenly Rosa heard a noise among the branches and in the distance, a few meters away, she saw two little beings appear among the bushes, which caused the woman to be petrified by such an apparition.
They were beings that seemed very smiling, gesticulating, without giving any sign of being a threat to her. In fact it seemed as if they were trying to make themselves understood and wanted to start a conversation with her, they had small and very dark eyes (according to Rosa), they were short (they would not be more than one meter tall), they looked very Similar to humans, their faces were almost perfect, although their trail was rather aged by the wrinkled skin.
The beings wore a bluish-gray one-piece suit with a cape on their backs and over their heads they wore a kind of helmet. They approached her slowly with a funny and friendly face speaking loud and sharp in a strange language. Rosa at that moment remained motionless, so the beings took the opportunity to jump on him and snatch the bouquet and his shoes. At that moment, Rosa proved that despite the size, these beings had great strength.
She tried to recover her belongings, but the one who was closest to her insisted on taking everything she had in her hands. Then Rosa already panicked for fear of being harmed and ran to the trees, hiding as she could in the forest.
When he left, he saw how these creatures stayed in custody and with great curiosity inspected the bouquet of flowers, took some objects that had been left on the ground and then approached the ship, deposited everything inside and then returned to the place and began to search the surroundings are supposed to be looking for Rosa who already died of fear, continued crawling among the grass and thus managed to get away more than 50 m. Once refugee, from that place he observed how those beings, climbed the small ship minutes later and closed the door of the ship. Soon after, with a great sonic vibration and releasing a lot of smoke and flames, that device began to rise and in an instant disappeared into the sky ..
Life on Enceladus? complex organic molecules on Saturn’s satellite?
From stories about the inhabitants of the Moon to the costly research programs set up by space agencies, identifying the presence of life on another heavenly body seems to be an endless concern for mankind. As the margins of the known Universe are still moving away from the Earth, the possibility of discovering living beings on another planet is increasing even though we have no certainty, but only hope and probability.
For the moment, we are grateful for these probabilities, awaiting the day that it will undoubtedly confirm that we and our planet do not represent the only life-assembling complex of this huge universe.
But to host life, a heavenly body must give it certain conditions. (Here, it seems that we still need to expand our ideas a little, because we tend to believe that any living thing on another planet must be made up just like the living things on Earth, not necessarily like them, but be the same at the molecular level.
If one of the great scientific discoveries of recent years – bacteria capable of using arsenic instead of phosphorus – is confirmed – that means that our perspective on what is living must change. And then, it is possible that some planets with attributes that today seem inappropriate to become more interesting in the future in the light of our changed concepts.)
But, by the way, all people, at all times, think about the ideas of their time, so let us also thank ourselves to the contemporary ideas regarding what life means and the conditions that a planet must fulfill for that the miracle of life should appear there and perpetuate.
Extraterrestrial life could develop into Enceladus’s hidden oceans
The first observations of Saturn’s satellite were made in 2005 when hydrothermal jets were detected for the first time. Now, there may be the answer that raises the chances of alien life.
“From where Enceladus has the energy to support the phenomenon has always been a mystery to us,”said astrobiologist Gael Choblet of Nantes University in France.
“I have now considered with greater detail how the structure and composition of the solid core can play a key role in generating the necessary energy,”he added.
It is estimated that the ice thickness is 25 kilometers, but only one kilometer around the southern polar region, where these hydrothermal phenomena occur.
The small pieces of minerals detected in jets suggest that salts and silica dust are formed by the interaction of water that can reach up to 90 degrees Celsius with the rocks of the Enceladus satellite. For this interaction to take place, there must be space in the core for water to coexist, so the core must be porous.
“Whatever the mineralogical composition of the core, it must contain water,” Choblet explained, “maybe 20-30% water.”
In the new simulations, the team found that the tides generated by the orbit around Saturn can heat the water inside Enceladus due to the frictional force produced as the liquid circulates through rock fragments.
When the water rises in temperature (reaching up to 90 degrees in the orange sections in the image below), it rises through the porous core through the ocean to the surface in the form of jets.
Previous studies state that this heat would have been from radioactive material, but if that was the case, the process would have provided the heat needed to emerge the jets for several million years, so somehow the radioactive material would have appeared recently on Enceladus.
The new theory offers a more plausible explanation, with a phenomenon that takes place over a longer period.
What’s most interesting is that the warm water, the long time and the chemical composition found on Enceladus are key elements in the emergence of life.
Thus, this study can be the basis for the search for extraterrestrial life.
Scientists have found evidence of complex organic molecules on Saturn’s satellite
Using mass spectrometry data collected by NASA’s Cassini probe, scientists have found that large organic carbon molecules are ejected through the cracks on the frozen surface of Enceladus, one of the many natural satellites of the giant gas giant, Saturn.
Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute, who discovered the presence of these molecules, believe that the chemical reactions between the solid core of the satellite and the warm water in the ocean under ice are responsible for these complex compounds, Phys.
“ONCE AGAIN, WE ARE AMAZED BY ENCELADUS. PREVIOUSLY, WE IDENTIFIED ONLY THE SIMPLEST ORGANIC MOLECULES CONTAINING A FEW CARBON ATOMS, BUT EVEN THOSE WERE VERY INTERESTING, “SAID CHRISTOPHER GLEIN, A SCHOLAR AND CO-AUTHOR OF THE WORK RECENTLY PUBLISHED IN NATURE.
“NOW WE HAVE FOUND ORGANIC MOLECULES WITH MASSES OF OVER 200 ATOMIC MASS UNITS. THESE ARE TEN TIMES HEAVIER THAN METHANE. WITH COMPLEX MOLECULES EMANATING FROM THE LIQUID WATER OF THE OCEAN, THIS SATELLITE IS THE ONLY BODY BESIDES THE EARTH THAT SIMULTANEOUSLY MEETS ALL THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE AS WE KNOW IT. ”
“EVEN AFTER ITS END, CASSINI CONTINUES TO TEACH US ABOUT ENCELADUS’S POTENTIAL IN ASTROBIOLOGY,” GLEIN ADDED.
During the flight, near Enceladus, on October 28, 2015, with the help of the INMS (Neutral Mass Spectrometer) instrument, molecular hydrogen could be detected when the ship passed through a jet.
Previous studies have already shown that the satellite has an ocean under the ice layer and above the solid core. The molecular hydrogen jet is probably formed by the geochemical reactions between water and rocks in hydrothermal environments.
“HYDROGEN PROVIDES A SOURCE OF CHEMICAL ENERGY THAT SUPPORTS MICROBES LIVING IN THE EARTH’S OCEANS NEAR HYDROTHERMAL SPRINGS,” SAID HUNTER WAITE, THE SCIENTIST WHO HEADS THE TEAM AT INMS AND CO-AUTHOR OF THE NEW STUDY. “ONCE YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF FOOD FOR MICROBES, THE NEXT QUESTION IS ABOUT THE NATURE OF COMPLEX ORGANIC COMPOUNDS IN THE OCEAN. THIS WORK IS THE FIRST STEP IN THAT UNDERSTANDING OF THE COMPLEXITY OF ORGANIC CHEMISTRY BEYOND OUR EXPECTATIONS. ”
“ALSO, THE FINDINGS IN THIS STUDY HAVE IMPORTANT SIGNIFICANCE FOR EXPLORATIONS OF THE NEXT GENERATION,” GLEIN ADDED. “A FUTURE SHIP CAN FLY THROUGH THE JET TO ANALYZE THESE COMPLEX ORGANIC MOLECULES USING A HIGH-RESOLUTION MASS SPECTROMETER TO HELP US DETERMINE EXACTLY HOW TO FORM THEM.”
Year after year, benefiting from advances in exploration technology, astronomers discover more planets that seem to be “good for life.” Let us understand: we do not necessarily speak of “good for us”, that is, good to live on, but some that offer similar conditions – identical – to those on Earth, conditions that could allow them to live there beings, adapted to those conditions.
And on Earth there are many places where people do not live, but they live enough life forms, some with a very original metabolism. And some creatures on the Earth can withstand almost unimaginable harsh conditions.
If experts will persuade those who decide the money destination to provide funds for the preparation of such a mission, Enceladus could become the next star on alien life searches.
He deserves it, say “his admirers”, because he has a lot to offer – he has qualities that can feed hope much more than the planet Mars, the one that “consumes” currently the funds for the research of the profile.
Well, what can I say? Let’s be healthy to take the time when the world explodes the news that the space mission to Enceladus has found signs of biological activity there, undeniable evidence that there is what we have been looking for decades – life-forms living on another heavenly body from our solar system.
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