Well, Asteroid 2012 DA14 missed us. Having briefly titillated us with the possibility that it would smash into Earth and approximate the effects of a world-wide disaster movie, Asteroid 2012 DA14 passed harmlessly by and vanished into space, going back to the anonymity that its boring name presaged.
Still, Asteroid 2012 DA14 had its impact — even if not a physical one. If people are concerned about the possibility that, at any moment, a hurtling space rock will pulverize our planet, why not just live for the moment? Why not adopt the Epicurean philosophy, and eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die? (Of course, if we don’t die, we’ll have to deal with the consequences of our dissolute behavior, but let’s not think about that right now.)
Jolie Holland aptly captures such an approach with her terrific song Enjoy Yourself. With asteroids and meteors raining down upon us, how could anyone not like a song with the refrain “enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”?
Scientists are debating a provocative new study that suggests that life is found elsewhere in the universe, and may have arrived on Earth by way or meteors and comets.
In an article published in the Journal of Cosmology, NASA astrobiologist Richard B. Hoover reports on his studies of a rare type of meteor. He concludes that the meteors include fossils of bacterial life. Some of the micro-organisms are recognizable and closely associated with life found here on Earth, like the gian bacterium pictured above. Other apparent fossils are of unknown life forms. Hoover is convinced of his findings. Other scientists, however, are skeptical — skepticism, after all, is one of the fundamental tenets of good science — and want more proof.
If Hoover’s conclusions are correct, then the implications are Earth-shaking. The study suggests that life is more common than thought and can survive in the harshest imaginable conditions. It also suggests that life may have originated elsewhere and landed on Earth via comet and meteor — in effect, that Earth was seeded with life forms from another place. The apparent fossils that look familiar thrived after they arrived in Earth’s moist, oxygen-rich atmosphere; those that look unfamiliar, however, died out. And, because scientists are uncovering evidence of increasing numbers of Earth-like planets in the galaxy, the study suggests that life could have been seeded, by the same means, on other planets. If that is so, then the chances of intelligent extraterrestrial life forms may be greater than previously thought.