Alien life: Seeking the extraordinary
The art and culture have always been fascinated with extra terrestrials making contact with humans. From cryptic hieroglyphics of ancient cultures to modern-day literature, mankind has been obsessed with life from another world.
From the cryptic drawings of the Mayans to H. G. Wells’ War of the worlds, the concept of aliens has become a part of our everyday life. Literature, art, and media have all dedicated themselves to showcasing man being invaded, abducted, fighting and chasing down aliens. Over the passage of time, this fascination has taken many different turns. Mostly mankind has associated aliens with mystical aspects, ancient gods that bestowed humanity with gifts and plagues but gradually those views were explained by discoveries in science. Soon, aliens took a back seat and science took over.
This fascination with extraterrestrials has begun to pay its dividends to the scientific community recently. Scientists have finally discovering alien life, not as we know it, on various meteorites and even new forms of life like the recent discovery of arsenic based life forms. But of course, they’re still a long way from actually coming to terms with it.
Panspermia, a term coined in the fifth century BC, is the theory of life spreading through the cosmos via meteorites and comets and has been a popular subject since then. Two renowned scientists, Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, went even further and said that—unlike the imagined little green men—alien life could take the shape of new diseases and entire life forms.
There’s also Seti (Search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) which is a collective of many different organisations and people that are actively searching for aliens using various scientific methods and reading out electromagnetic transmissions. Nasa and the United States were chief sponsors of various Seti programmes in the beginning, but recent work has been funded privately. There are also various newer versions of Seti occurring around the world thanks to technology and scientific interest.
Nasa’s stance on discovering aliens depends on its definition of alien life. For now, it is content with announcing aliens as microbe life, the announcement of arsenic-based life forms, for example. Nasa was quick to make the announcement late last year but was met with heavy criticism from scientists and other researchers. The criticism questioned the nature of the bactaeria and whether it can be classified as life at all. More recently, Nasa has dismissed claims of alien life found on meteorites some 15 years ago.
Whether the fascination is science or cinema, aliens are everywhere. Take for instance the two new movies to be released shortly that are highlighting extraterrestrials, Paul and Apollo 18. Both movies depict aliens but in different ways; Paul is a comedy adventure and Apollo 18 verges on the horror and suspense. But these aren’t the first movies to talk about aliens—nor will they be last—there have been numerous films that have done so.
Star trek franchise is a classic example. The mission of the fiction Federation of planets in the show was to ‘seek out new life and civilisations’. A bold one at that, the series has spawned five different shows, countless movies and an entire culture of followers known as trekkies. At the heart of the show there were always aliens, the good, the bad and the weird. Star trek is probably one franchise that has covered alien contact in every way possible.
The connection between art and science is inexplicable. The art influences science and science influences the art, and one thing is for certain: for as long as mankind can look up to the heavens and wonder, he will continue looking for alien life—no matter what it may be.