Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Could asteroid belts help us spot extra-terrestrial life?

A story had popped up for no apparent reason in a few places including the Daily Mail, but I'm not going to link to them so instead here's the RAS page.

Upon reading the title I thought "Hmm I wonder if they meant looking for a depleted asteroid belt (compared to mathematical models) that might indicate extensive mining of it for resources indicating, at the least, a intra-system space-faring race?" Nope it's a having just the right type of asteroid belt could evolve intelligent life.

Okay really? We're still getting this. For a more in-depth look at my take on these stories check my posts on Reporting not parroting - Earth type planet; Theoretical physicist plus biology equals?; and Goldilocks planet.

In this instance we have Dr. Rebecca Martin with her PhD in "Theoretical Astrophysics, Warped and Twisted DIscs" and BA in Mathematics and Dr Mario Livio with his PhD in theoretical astrophysics M.S. in theoretical particle physics and B.S. in Mathematics and Physics both interpreting Punctuated Equilibrium, an evolutionary biology theory, and extending it into the realm of the xenobiologist.

While I could hold that the odd asteroid hit might have aided the rise of intelligent life on this planet the assumption that this would hold true for others is hilarious. I mean it's not been that long since the presence of our gas giants was supposedly crucial in deflecting asteroid hits along with our own satellite; so is 'life creation' being narrowed down so much to exactly the right type of asteroid field with exactly the right type of deflection hitting a planet that is just the right distance from the sun?

Again sure if you're looking for life that's evolved via pretty much exactly the same process we did than oddly enough looking for pretty much the same conditions would be a given. Assuming that's the only way intelligent life could evolve... I'll stick with hilarious.