Make your own free website on
PlanetArchs (Planet Archaeologists)
The Concept The Treatment
One of my many interests is the search for "life" elsewhere in the universe.  For me, the discovery of some form of life outside the Earth is inevitable.  It's just a matter of time.

It is entirely possible that we may discover the fossil remains of life forms - maybe even civilizations - in our own solar system.

Mars seems to be a candidate for such a discovery, and I think that perhaps one of the most exciting careers in the decades to come will be that of the Planetary Archaeologist or PlanetArch.

In fact, it's entirely plausible - to my mind - that inhabitants of Earth in the not too distant future will be divided into two main classes: those concerned with seeking out and monitoring life on other planets, and those concerned with examining the fossil record of planets.

The two could work together - for example, on Earth-like planets which have an extensive history of "life" - or separately - one on a planet like Mars, where no obvious life has been found to date, and one on a planet where life has barely begun to establish a presence.

It would appear - from current theory and observation - that even moons may be a source of life - for example, Jupiter's moon, Europa, may have liquid water in the form of huge oceans under a layer of ice that could be as much as a mile thick - so the future looks very, very interesting indeed.

(Life on Earth has been found in the oceans at such tremendous depths and pressures under circumstances when it would seem impossible for anything to exist - such as right next to a volcanic fissure - and where there is no light for photosynthesis as we know it to occur.  That at least gives us a remarkable precedent, and some hope that Europa might harbor more than just microbial life forms.)

Science Fiction literature hasn't neglected the possibility of discovering and examining the fossil record of a dead alien civilization - Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles was turned into a passable TV series with Rock Hudson, although the premise was changed; the book and the series appear almost unconnected.

It occurred to me that there would be boatloads of material to explore in scenarios that involve the work of such specialists - independent of the "shoot 'em up before they eat us up" genre of science fiction involving alien inhabitants and cultures.

The thought experiment ("gedankenexperiment") much beloved of physicists and mathematicians (but not exclusive to them) can lead us in many directions, all of which are (or could be made) interesting.

For example, what might be the "ground rules" for a civilization capable of the technological feat of interplanetary - or even interstellar - travel?

Given those ground rules, what might be the consequence of someone breaking those rules?  Who would police the rules and how?

What would happen if archeologists working on Mars discovered artefacts that looked remarkably Earth-like?  Would they predate the Earth's record?  What would the story be if they post-dated it?

What if specialists working on Europa found forms of life beneath the ice that looked remarkably Earth-like?

At the moment I'm working on potential answers to those questions (and others) but the ideas are stimulating and I just had to get something down on paper.  Well, on magnetized metal, anyway :)

Watch this space for more ideas...

The treatment will be available on WriteSafe and here.

Last updated: July 17, 2002

Peter Brooks

© PC Consulting 2002