Oct 19, 2010 I Micah Hanks

Speculating About Alien Life: More Questions than Answers?

If alien life exists elsewhere in the cosmos (as it most certainly does), what might we expect our intergalactic others to look like?

Could intelligent life exist elsewhere in tangible forms other than the humanoid shape our species has grown so accustomed to? Even stranger, could there be non-tangible forms, according to the way humans would perceive them, which may also harness intelligence? If so, how might such alien life operate?

While ruminating over questions like these, all pertaining to the varieties of alien life that may populate the Universe, I began keeping track of a variety of questions that kept recurring over the last few weeks. Namely, these have to do with adaptation and evolutionary situations that could contribute to how life elsewhere might come to exist on other planets (or not on planets, for that matter). Many of the prevalent notions I've been toying with are things that have no doubt been addressed before; I've even touched on a few of them at my blog, The Gralien Report. However, when it comes to this sort of "speculative exobiology," it is sometimes interesting to share such thought processes with others (such as you, the fine folks who read the content we provide here at Mysterious Universe). That said, I've continued this thought-game of mine here at the MU blog... perhaps some of you will have fascinating theories or profound questions to offer using the comment section below.

First of all, what kinds of biological factors might cause differences in the way a species evolved on other planets; specifically with regard to their eventual development of intelligence, morals, society, etc? Take for instance a species of intelligent reptiles (or something similar to reptiles as we know them on Earth). Could we expect them to behave differently than evolved mammals such as humans? If so, in what ways would we expect their behavior to differ, based on what we know of reptiles on Earth? What about advanced insect life forms? How might we predict their behavior to differ from intelligent mammals?

Another interesting point has to do with the famous "Drake equation," which has long been used to govern the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in space. What if it were wrong, especially taking into consideration the factors presented by the questions above? More specifically, what if our tendency to associate the likelihood of life existing elsewhere were hindered by the way we perceive human life; do you think advanced insectoid beings would have the same self-destructive tendencies that evolved mammals do, constituting the sort of nuclear doomsday scenarios that overshadowed Carl Sagan's interpretation of the Drake equation?

For instance, the Drake Equation supposes that many civilizations (if not a majority of them) could potentially destroy themselves once they become technologically proficient. Would an advanced race of insects, due to a sort of “hive mentality,” be capable of sustaining their civilization, but with very different morals standards when compared with humans? Furthermore, could those standards cause such a species to find it suitable to destroy another civilization, so long as doing so benefited their long-term survival?

How would the physical size of intelligent alien life forms affect, or possibly even justify their existence? Could intelligent aliens exist that are diminutive (perhaps only a few centimeters tall) but still possessing complex intelligence and the ability to manipulate mass around them in ways that allow them to master their environment? What about species that would make humans appear the size of an insect?

Does the consistency of the size of atoms and particles in the universe suggest that the size of humanoids (either humans, or perceived extraterrestrials) is an evolutionary constant, or would intelligent life elsewhere evolve based on the influence of their surroundings, and the aptitudes that environment would require? Are technology and its applications typically relative to the physical size and characteristics of the species that harnesses them? How would a species that was far smaller than humans in stature, but more advanced than us, have advantages or disadvantages over us in a takeover attempt?

These are just a smattering of ideas I've toyed with recently... I'd be very interested to see what you, the readers think. Besides, guessing about alien life elsewhere in the universe is just fun, in my opinion!

Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

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