Look for the Improbable in Extraterrestrial Life

To land a spacecraft on Europa, with the heavy equipment needed to penetrate the ice and explore the ocean directly, would be a formidable undertaking. A direct search for life in Europa's ocean would today be prohibitively expensive. But just as asteroid and comet impacts on Mars have given us an easier way to look for evidence of life on that planet, impacts on Europa give us an easier way to look for evidence of life there. Every time a major impact occurs on Europa, a vast quantity of water is splashed from the ocean into the space around Jupiter. Some of the water evaporates, and some condenses into snow. Creatures living in the water far enough from the impact have a chance of being splashed intact into space and quickly freeze-dried. Therefore, an easy way to look for evidence of life in Europa's ocean is to look for freeze-dried fish in the ring of space debris orbiting Jupiter. Sending a spacecraft to visit and survey Jupiter's ring would be far less expensive than sending a submarine to visit and survey Europa's ocean. Even if we did not find freeze-dried fish in Jupiter's ring, we might find other surprises -- freeze-dried seaweed, or a freeze-dried sea monster.

Freeze-dried fish orbiting Jupiter is a fanciful notion, but nature in the biological realm has a tendency to be fanciful. Nature is usually more imaginative than we are. Nobody in Europe ever imagined a bird of paradise or a duck-billed platypus before it was discovered by explorers. Even after the platypus was discovered and a specimen brought to London, several learned experts declared it to be a fake. Many of nature's most beautiful creations might be dismissed as wildly improbable if they were not known to exist. When we are exploring the universe and looking for evidence of life, either we may look for things that are probable but hard to detect or we may look for things that are improbable but easy to detect. In deciding what to look for, detectability is at least as useful a criterion as probability. Primitive organisms such as bacteria and algae hidden underground may be more probable, but freeze-dried fish in orbit are more detectable. To have the best chance of success, we should keep our eyes open for all possibilities.


We should look for freeze-dried live ejected from impacts with Europa rather than trying to send probes into the ice.

Folksonomies: exploration extraterrestrials

/food and drink (0.479446)
/business and industrial/energy/oil (0.379474)
/business and industrial (0.326474)

freeze-dried fish (0.935197 (positive:0.181053)), Europa (0.754394 (positive:0.174740)), freeze-dried sea monster (0.710586 (neutral:0.000000)), freeze-dried seaweed (0.588739 (positive:0.221071)), easier way (0.585585 (positive:0.725430)), algae hidden underground (0.573026 (negative:-0.422269)), life (0.538209 (positive:0.112435)), Jupiter (0.535114 (positive:0.505547)), formidable undertaking (0.495319 (neutral:0.000000)), heavy equipment (0.481944 (neutral:0.000000)), Extraterrestrial Life (0.477453 (negative:-0.442053)), comet impacts (0.476015 (positive:0.667761)), direct search (0.471137 (negative:-0.435561)), fanciful notion (0.469630 (neutral:0.000000)), duck-billed platypus (0.468380 (neutral:0.000000)), vast quantity (0.467874 (positive:0.567099)), major impact (0.459230 (neutral:0.000000)), space debris (0.453563 (positive:0.443995)), biological realm (0.452868 (neutral:0.000000)), Primitive organisms (0.450527 (negative:-0.422269)), evidence (0.449064 (positive:0.551242)), best chance (0.447081 (positive:0.671283)), easy way (0.444590 (positive:0.443995)), ocean (0.435334 (positive:0.069986)), water (0.407845 (positive:0.133219)), nature (0.384562 (positive:0.163033)), spacecraft (0.377124 (neutral:0.000000)), ice (0.373872 (negative:-0.442053)), Improbable (0.364027 (negative:-0.442053)), things (0.352375 (negative:-0.387369))

Europa:City (0.867585 (positive:0.087370)), Europe:Continent (0.191000 (neutral:0.000000)), London:City (0.165921 (neutral:0.000000))

Jupiter (0.948590): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Extraterrestrial life (0.904411): dbpedia | freebase
Planet (0.877779): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Water (0.874745): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Life (0.872578): dbpedia | freebase
Mars (0.785803): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Europa (0.761992): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Callisto (0.709117): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Warm-blooded plants and freeze-dried fish: the future of space exploration. Played
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Dyson , Freeman (11/1997), Warm-blooded plants and freeze-dried fish: the future of space exploration. Played, The Atlantic, Retrieved on 2013-05-13
  • Source Material [www.theatlantic.com]
  • Folksonomies: speculation