This column was written for Many Worlds by Michael Wong and Stuart Bartlett. Wong is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington’s Astronomy and Astrobiology program and is a member of NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) initiative as part of the university’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory team. Bartlett is a postdoctoral scholar in Geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology and has been a fellow at the Earth-Live Science Institute (ELSI) in Tokyo.
Spock communicates with a Horta, a fictional silicon-based life form composed of molten rock and acid. (Star Trek; CBS Studios)
By Michael Wong and Stuart Bartlett
The search for extraterrestrial life is in its early phase still and, the truth is, we don’t yet know if life exists beyond our pale blue dot. Or, if it does, whether it will be easily recognizable or truly bizarre.
Predicting what might be out there, and how to find it, is a hypothesis-driven area of research at present — one that has given rise to hundreds of possible definitions for the “life” we are looking for.
But after grounding ourselves in scientific principles, it may be that our greatest tool is to let ...