Are we alone in the universe? This is undoubtedly a question that we ask ourselves often. Although no one has yet been able to give a clear answer, one thing is certain: we are far from having unraveled all the secrets of everything that exists in the cosmos.
However, discoveries made in recent years in the near-Earth planets, in the outer solar system, and beyond, seem to indicate the possibility that other worlds could harbor living organisms, from bacteria to technological civilizations. To increase our chances of encountering non-terrestrial creatures, the 2004 Nobel Prize winner in physics, Franck Wilczek, proposed two new research methods.
Less effective methods?
In fact, our current techniques for finding extraterrestrial life are essentially based on eavesdropping on radio signals from space. Sometimes we also send them out to signal our presence in the universe. Remember, we have discovered nearly 4,000 exoplanets so far.
The use of artificial intelligence should also increase this number significantly soon. However, Franck Wilczek believes that the approach we are currently implementing has a downside. The physicist had an interview with the Wall Street Journal about it. He took the opportunity to share some tips that could help scientists improve alien life research programs.
The composition of the atmosphere
Among the new methods advocated by the 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics is the study of the chemistry of a planet’s atmosphere. The gases around it can actually be influenced by its residents.
The search for extraterrestrial life relies mainly on hearing radio signals. Photo credit: Shutterstock / ktsdesign
According to Wilczek, this concept is very important because the atmosphere “could be influenced by biological processes, similar to how photosynthesis on earth produces almost all of the oxygen on our planet”. In addition, an advanced alien civilization could colonize other planets and alter their atmosphere to make them comfortable.
In addition to the composition of the air, the temperature is another important criterion, believes Franck Wilczek. In addition to natural heat, a technologically advanced civilization could create a greenhouse effect to raise or, on the contrary, lower a planet’s temperature to make it more habitable and ultimately keep the water in a liquid state.
Unusually high temperatures can also explain the use of artificial energy sources such as fission or nuclear fusion by an alien civilization. According to Wilczek, analyzing temperature anomalies in exoplanets could help identify aliens more easily.