By: April Carson
It's a question that has puzzled scientists for years - did a higher form of life exist before humans came on the scene? And if so, what happened to them?
Our Milky Way galaxy has hundreds of billions of potentially habitable planets, but we have no idea whether or not we're alone. For the time being, Earth is the only place where life exists, and Homo sapiens is believed to be the first species to invent sophisticated technology among all living creatures on our planet.
Maybe it's asking too much to think that way.
But that doesn't mean that a higher form of life didn't exist before us. In fact, there's evidence to suggests that it might have.
Some scientists believe that a higher form of life did exist before humans, but they were wiped out by a cataclysmic event such as a supernova or gamma ray burst.
NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the University of Rochester conducted a skeptical study of scientific evidence in "The Silurian Hypothesis," a paper that examines the validity of the idea that we are the only intelligent species to have inhabited Earth.
The study found that the possibility of a higher form of life existing before us is "plausible and warrants further study."
So, while we can't say for sure if a higher form of life did or didn't exist before humans, it's an intriguing idea worth considering.
“Do we truly believe that we were the first technological species on Earth?” asks Adam Frank, a physics and astronomy professor at Rochester and co-author of the study. “We've had an industrial society for just about 300 years, but land-based complex life has existed for nearly 400 million years.”
Frank and his colleagues used something called the Drake Equation to come to their conclusion. The Drake Equation is a way of estimating the number of advanced civilizations that might exist in our galaxy.
Frank claims that if humans vanished today, any future civilization that might develop on Earth millions of years later would have a hard time recognizing signs of human culture. We may likewise struggle to discover relics from a previous society if it existed million of years in the past on Earth.
The most stunning evidence of a Silurian civilization on Earth would be the discovery of physical specimens, but Frank doubts we will ever discover anything like it.
“Our cities are only a tiny fraction of the surface area,” claims Dr. Bones. Any comparable cities from an earlier time would be simple for modern-day paleontologists to overlook. And no one should expect to find a Jurassic iPhone; even Gorilla Glass wouldn't last millions of years.
Finding fossilized bones isn't much of a better bet, but if another highly evolved species roamed the Earth millions of years ago — and they may have — it would be easy to overlook their fossilized remains — if they had them. Modern humans have been on the planet for only 100,000 years, a fraction of that time within an unbroken span of rock.
Frank and Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at Goddard and the paper's co-author, are thus interested in finding chemical relics of an ancient terrestrial civilization. They suggest that if another intelligent species existed long ago, it would have had a significant impact on its planet's atmosphere. The gases produced by their industrial and agricultural activities would have been different from those of modern humans, and traces of those gases might still be detectable.
Schmidt and Frank propose focusing on plastics and other long-lived synthetic compounds, as well as radioactive fallout (in the case of ancient lizard people battling atomic warfare) as part of their study. In our situation, technological progress has been accompanied by widespread extinctions and rapid environmental changes, which are all cause for concern.
The researchers determined that none of the past 380 million years' suspiciously abrupt geologic events fit a technological profile. Frank recommends additional study, such as examining how modern industrial chemicals exist in ocean sediments and then seeing if we can discover indications of comparable chemicals in the geological record.
He claims that a better understanding of human environmental impact will have important practical applications, allowing us to notice better solutions for achieving a long-term equilibrium with the planet so we don't become tomorrow's forgotten species.
He also has a lot of convictions, just like The Doctor. He feels that you should “go with your gut” more often.
Archaeology of the Moon
The moon is a favorite target of Penn State University astronomer Jason Wright, one of a handful of other scientists who are now applying serious scientific thinking to the prospect of prior human technological civilizations.
“Unmaintained things on Earth's surfaces are really good at destroying habitats,” Wright points out. As a result, he's been considering the unusual notion that such a civilization may have been an interstellar one. If it's true, legendary artifacts of their technology or technosignatures could be discovered throughout the solar system elsewhere.
According to Dr. Wright, archaeologists should search for such relics not just on the Moon's surface, but also on asteroids or buried on Mars — places where they might theoretically survive hundreds of millions of years or longer.
“If you have this technology that can maintain itself for millions or billions of years, it seems to me that would be a very good thing to have,” he says. “It would be like having a time capsule.”
The launch of Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster into space, which SpaceX conducted on February 6th, 2019, provides a glimpse into how such a hunt might proceed. Several astronomers pointed their telescopes at the vehicle and discovered that even if you had no idea what you were looking at, you'd immediately notice it as one strange-looking asteroid.
Finding technosignatures in space is a long shot, but Wright maintains that it's worthwhile. “There are other reasons to look for strange geometries on Mars and the moon, as well as odd asteroids,” he adds. Such research might provide new insights into the history and evolution of our solar system or potential sources of useful resources for future astronauts.
If the search produces a large black obelisk, that's excellent. But even if all we find are some very weird-looking rocks, the search will still be worth it.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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