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
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
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