Book Contemplates the Likely Nature of Extra-Terrestrial Life and its Imminent Discovery by Humanity

Wallace Arthur, Emeritus Professor of Zoology, NUI Galway. Photo: Wallace Arthur
Oct 01 2020 Posted: 11:39 IST

NUI Galway Professor discusses the scientific basis of alien life, and its probable extent across the many recently discovered exoplanets, in his new book ‘The Biological Universe’

Wallace Arthur, an NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology and a distinctive voice in the growing field of astrobiology has published a new book, The Biological Universe.

The book brings together the latest discoveries in biology and astronomy to examine the issues of the probable nature of extra-terrestrial life, its extent across the vastness of the Universe, and our chances of finding conclusive evidence for it within the next couple of decades, using the new generation of space telescopes. In addressing these issues, The Biological Universe tackles the many riddles of our place and fate in the Universe that have intrigued human beings since they first gazed in wonder at the night-time sky over ancient Africa. 

Wallace Arthur, NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology, said: “This is a fascinating time in the history of science’s quest to discover life beyond the Earth. Our past speculations about the existence of planets and life beyond our own solar system are fast being replaced by facts, many of which are described in this book. The last 25 years have seen incredible growth in our knowledge of exoplanets – planets that orbit not our own Sun, but distant stars, which are of course suns in their own right. The first exoplanet was discovered in 1995. By the turn of the millennium we knew of a few dozen. By 2010 the number had reached a few hundred. Now, in 2020, it’s more than 4,000 and growing fast.”

Many of the newly discovered planets are in the habitable zone – the zone within which liquid water can exist on their surfaces in the form of lakes and oceans, as it does here on Earth.

Professor Arthur explains: “We now have the technology to analyse the atmospheres of these planets, looking in particular for biosignature gases, such as oxygen and ozone. And our ability to conduct such analyses will be greatly enhanced by the next generation of space telescopes, currently at an advanced stage of planning at NASA. If evidence of extra-terrestrial life is indeed found soon, and the enduring question of ‘are we alone in the Universe?’ is finally answered with a resounding ‘no’ as seems likely, it will be the most significant discovery in the history of humanity.”

For more information on The Biological Universe, which will be will be published this month by Cambridge University Press, visit: http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2020/08/are-we-alone-in-the-universe/.

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