According to a woman named Ellen Stofan, we'll have definite proof of alien life within 30 years -- and nope, she's not a TV psychic or a National Enquirer writer; she's the chief scientist of NASA, so she probably knows what she's talking about. After telling us for decades that the prospect of finding life on other planets is about as realistic as the plot of Mork & Mindy, science has slowly started changing its tune in light of recent discoveries, like ...
6NASA Just Proved That Life Can Begin In Deep-Space Conditions
Despite what the fungus growing on your bathroom wall seems to indicate, life can't just pop up anywhere. Deep space, for example, is so inhospitable that not even the most basic components of life could survive there. So you can jerk off into the vacuum all you want, John Glenn: There's no chance it could cross the cosmic divide to your extraterrestrial soulmate (who, for the purposes of our narrative, looks like Lady ALF).
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"Time to remove a glove, let my hand freeze, and give myself a 'space stranger.'"
Or at least that's what we thought until recently, when NASA scientists reproduced the building blocks of life and precursors to genetic material in motherfucking space. And by space, we mean a simulated outer-space environment at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, which is the next best thing. The point is, the experiment showed that the cosmos could be teeming with all sorts of biological goodies that can rain down upon planets and seed life.
See, our dumb caveman forefathers (read: us, like five months ago) used to think that the first terrestrial organisms could have been crafted only within the roiling shit-stew that was early Earth, when a combination of hydrothermal vents and solar radiation gang-banged the constituents of life into existence. But NASA's fiddling shows that you don't even need a planet, much less a serendipitous turn of ecological events, to form genetic bases. They plugged organic compounds that can be found throughout the cosmos into their cosmic Easy Bake Oven and zapped it with UV radiation until out popped uracil, cytosine, and thymine -- key components of RNA and DNA. It's very appropriate, perhaps even poetic, that this procedure was carried out by a state-of-the-art vacuum chamber that looks like a laser-based penis pump.
NASA / Dominic Hart
Or a prop from Star Trek. Either way, this thing has witnessed some freaky sex.
Most importantly, this is a scenario that's very likely to occur throughout the universe. All you need are some readily available compounds plus some solar radiation, and boom -- you've got yourself potentially life-bearing molecules. Just remember to wash your hands afterward.
5Turns Out There Are Shitloads Of Habitable Planets
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Of course, you can create all the molecules you want in space, but they won't do shit if they don't land on a planet where life can survive -- and everyone knows Earth is the only one of those, right? Yeah, they do, and everyone is also dead fucking wrong.
Let's begin with our own Milky Way -- a 100,000-light-year-wide spiral that apparently houses a single, bloated species. Or not, because in 2013 astronomers from UC Berkeley and the University Of Hawaii determined that the amount of potentially habitable real estate in just this one galaxy is mind-boggling: It's believed that 20 billion Earth-like planets orbit their stars. At least one of which has to host a race of three-boobed alien women like in Total Recall, because come on.
"Attempt 21,023,381,002: another planet of Wattos. Goddammit."
The astronomers extrapolated that number from data supplied by the Kepler Observatory (they couldn't get funding for an intra-galactic door-to-door census like they wanted, because Obama). The orbiting, battle-damaged space telescope detects planets by fixing upon a given star and waiting to see a shadow as any potential planets cross its path. By doing this, the Kepler has, over the past five years, tracked 150,000 stars and discovered more than 4,000 extra-solar planet candidates, plus an undisclosed number of Death Stars and wandering Galactuses.
Sadly, they found considerably fewer planets when they remembered to clean the lens.
Sifting through data from Kepler, it became apparent that about 20 percent of the stars in our galactic neighborhood are suckling baby planets of their own. The nearest Earth doppelganger resides only about 12 light years away and is quite visible with the naked eye. They probably think we're extremely rude for being over here this whole time and not even saying hi.
But what does this translate to on a universal scale? Well, there are at least several hundred billion galaxies, so that leaves us with a potential billion trillion Earth-like planets -- and that's only Sun-like stars. Furthermore, the figure doesn't even account for exomoons, which, as we've seen in our own solar playpen, can be just as habitable as the planets. If the most advanced life form in all those places is the one that buys millions of Pitbull records every year, then we have to say we're very unimpressed with this universe.