Possible life on Saturn.

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Oregonaut
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Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:05 pm UTC

http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20100607/sc_space/strangediscoveryontitanleadstospeculationofalienlife

Ok, so I'm trying to understand how this would work. The organism would of necessity be an extremophile (by our standards), could it be carbon based? The only other basis for life that I can think of is silicon (and that was after reading about it for a month following watching an episode of Star Trek TOS). I know that the life they are discussing is probably organisms like bacteria, mold, virii, or micro-cell organisms (protozoan and the like). But, if we could "discover" that life, would we want to take samples? What would be the point of doing to life on Titan that we would get upset if someone from Andromeda came and did to us?

I'll end this train of thought here. Hopefully this becomes a decent educational experience for me.
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Aelfyre » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:18 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20100607/sc_space/strangediscoveryontitanleadstospeculationofalienlife

Ok, so I'm trying to understand how this would work. The organism would of necessity be an extremophile (by our standards), could it be carbon based? The only other basis for life that I can think of is silicon (and that was after reading about it for a month following watching an episode of Star Trek TOS). I know that the life they are discussing is probably organisms like bacteria, mold, virii, or micro-cell organisms (protozoan and the like). But, if we could "discover" that life, would we want to take samples? What would be the point of doing to life on Titan that we would get upset if someone from Andromeda came and did to us?

I'll end this train of thought here. Hopefully this becomes a decent educational experience for me.


I have to say.. aside from logistical considerations... I see little to no ethical or moral differences between gathering a sample of life forms on Titan anf gathering similar types of organism on earth.. like from deep oceanic exploration for instance.

can't go around worry what hypothetical aliens might have to say about us probing around our solar system.
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby qetzal » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:27 pm UTC

Yes, we'd absolutely positively want to take samples!

Up to now, we've had only one type of life to examine. Questions like how likely is life to arise, what chemistries are possible, and what sorts of genetic molecules could exist are almost impossible to answer based on n=1 type of life (Earth-style). If there were life on Titan, and we could sample and study it, the things we would learn are too vast to even imagine. Consider how many things we've learned from Earth bacteria, and the uses that we have for that knowledge. Now imagine what new things Titan 'bacteria' could teach us, by virtue of their ability to live under conditions that no Earth life could survive.

As for the ethics, I don't see any problem with sampling per se, assuming that any Titan life would indeed be crudely analogous to bacteria or other microbes. It wouldn't be much different from when we sample rare microbes from extreme parts of Earth (e.g. hot springs, ocean vents). We don't have any fundamental ethical concerns about that. Why should it be different for Titan microbes? Would we have reason to be upset if someone from Andromeda came and sampled our microbes?

Of course, we'd want to sample in a way that didn't disturb or destroy the Titan 'ecology' but that's a different issue.

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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:30 pm UTC

Aelfyre wrote:
can't go around worry what hypothetical aliens might have to say about us probing around our solar system.


Hmm...I probably wasn't clear in my post. I mean, if aliens from Andromeda (just the first extra solar place that popped to mind) came and gathered a few humans and then skedoodled we'd be pretty well hosed.

So, why should we do this to life from Saturn's moons?
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Shivahn » Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:15 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:
Aelfyre wrote:
can't go around worry what hypothetical aliens might have to say about us probing around our solar system.


Hmm...I probably wasn't clear in my post. I mean, if aliens from Andromeda (just the first extra solar place that popped to mind) came and gathered a few humans and then skedoodled we'd be pretty well hosed.

So, why should we do this to life from Saturn's moons?


Because it's more analogous (theoretically) to aliens from Andromeda coming to Earth, taking some moss and leaving? I mean, are you picturing the aliens as large creatures with complex social interactions, or as bacteria?

Because if there is life, it's almost certainly the latter. And unicellular organisms aren't known for being particularly upset when you culture a few.

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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Omegaton » Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:51 pm UTC

Shivahn wrote:And unicellular organisms aren't known for being particularly upset when you culture a few.

The unfortunate thing is that we can't even culture the vast majority of bacteria from Earth, but of course even dead samples would tell us multitudes.

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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby MLBrandow » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:56 pm UTC

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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Technical Ben » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:03 pm UTC

"Wheee we get to go on a space ship!" Would probably be the first thought of any astro-bacteria.
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:59 pm UTC

If aliens from Andromeda showed up and asked "Hey, anyone want to come check out our alien culture in exchange for being scientifically observed?" you'd get volunteers like woah. Of course if they do the abduction things, that's bad. So let's make sure the bacteria isn't sentient first.
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Shivahn » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:04 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:If aliens from Andromeda showed up and asked "Hey, anyone want to come check out our alien culture in exchange for being scientifically observed?" you'd get volunteers like woah. Of course if they do the abduction things, that's bad. So let's make sure the bacteria isn't sentient first.


I'm not confident that we could ever tell this. So far as we know, sentience is an emergent property of complex data processing devices. If that's true, we'd be unlikely to find anything as "simple" as bacteria that understand their senses.

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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:26 pm UTC

Well, yeah, that's my point. There aren't any useful definitions of "sentience" that apply to bacteria, and most systems of morality don't assign rights to nonsentient life.
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby MLBrandow » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:41 pm UTC

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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Nautilus » Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:12 am UTC

Well, who knows?
If they interact with our chemistry, or we theirs, in harmful ways, I'd say varelse... Otherwise, definitely ramen... But again, it's hard to apply a sentience scale to bacteria.

But.. what if we find things that are multicellular? How would we tell if they were sentient or not?
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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Antimony-120 » Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:47 am UTC

MLBrandow wrote:I think the real question here is,


Ramen or Varelse?


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Re: Possible life on Saturn.

Postby Coffee » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:07 pm UTC

MLBrandow wrote:I think the real question here is,


Ramen or Varelse?


I somehow doubt non-carbon-based life could make much use of ramen or any other earth based noodles.
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