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Designating Alien Life

  1. Jan 6, 2018 #21
    Good point Glitchl. however, I still hope those involved in the biological and xeno-biological sciences would consider this discussion of merit to rationalize their research findings. It seems to me a common agreement on nomenclature would benefit the researchers with reliably accurate reporting of data.
  2. Jan 6, 2018 #22


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    I envision exo taxonomy would be metabolically driven, given metabolism is a basic prerequisite for life. For example, life on earth can be divided into two primary kingdoms aerobic and anaerobic, simply identifying the need [or lack thereof] to ingest atmospheric gasses as a key metabolite,. This scheme could be further refined to identify oxygen or carbon dioxide as its key metabolic input. On this basis, aerobic organisms on earth would fall under the designation of either oxyphiles [oxygen based] or cardiphiles [carbon dioxide based]. An organism native to a jovian moon might qualify as a methaphile [methane based]. Further refinements could prioritize other substances vital to metabolic processes.
  3. Jan 6, 2018 #23
    I hate to seem overly cynical, but you will not find much help from other sciences either. They are just as bad, or worse. While astronomy seems to have a plethora of names, some of them very creative, other sciences seem somewhat limited in their naming conventions. Paleontology, for example, has every mammal for the last 65 million years named as some kind of "-therium" or "beast." You have names like "Megatherium", which when literally translated from Greek simply means "Big Beast," to describe the "Giant Ground Sloth." No creativity at all.

    If they find something from another world that exactly resembles a single-celled amoeba that is found on Earth, then they should call it an exo-amoeba or xeno-amoeba. However, the odds of finding xeno-life that exactly resembles life on Earth seems astronomically slim. Which means we should be thinking of names in terms of location as well as identity, so that the name not only tells you something about the life-form, but also its location.
  4. Jan 6, 2018 #24
    I'm liking this idea. After all, as the adage goes: "You are what you eat." :biggrin:
  5. Jan 7, 2018 #25


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    Perhaps we should just put all the data into AI and see what a dispassionate approach yields in the way of a 'good' taxonomy system. We don't really need flowery names for something as important as this and, anyway, the number of flowery names available tends to be limited and we always end up with an alphanumeric code to cope with really big data. Take star names, for instance.
  6. Jan 7, 2018 #26
    Glitch!, I think you are being Realistic about the odds of even semi-formal adoption of a sensible idea. "Not Invented Here" is all too common in academia and corporate bureaucracies.

    Chronos, Thank you for your input. This is the sort of response I have been hoping for. If you notice any errors in my preliminary, unofficial, unauthorized (Quixotic?) categories, please feel free to correct me.

    Being outside the ‘business’, so to speak. I have no professional reputation to defend or any intent to seek funding. To avoid the political snarls and egotistical feuds all too common with professional organizations mandating established positions.

    The Zero designation is a temporary placeholder. Of samples taken that are not immediately confirmed as Earth Life. Once verified by multiple sources, then the sample designation can be changed to the correct classification. Retaining an archive of the preliminary taxonomy for historical review and possible revision if deemed necessary.

    (example) 0.01_2020.120_001/10
    0.01_ Zero designating a Probable but Unidentified Organism found outside Earth’s Mesosphere.
    2020 .120 designating year and day found
    _001/10 designating first of ten samples collected.

    (example) 0.02_2020.120_008/10
    Designating a Possible but Unidentified Orgamism, the 8th of 10 samples taken outside Earth’s Mesosphere. With unique characteristics. Such as, an unrecognized metabolism NOT identifiable as Earth Life}

    The reason I have tentatively offered this numeric system is that it is language independent. If a general preference was for instance using Atomic Era for year. No big effort needed to update the records. While using the count of days avoids unnecessary complexity.

    The problem I foresee is how to designate separate missions with overlapping dates for collecting samples?
  7. Jan 8, 2018 #27

    stefan r

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    Would fail as a naming system. You know what a T-Rex is. You can look at a paper from the 1930s and 1990s and when the author says "a tyrannosaur" you know more or less what (s)he is talking about. Dinosaurs were thought to have most recent common ancestors to reptiles and now they are thought to have common ancestors with birds.

    The classification system should have something we can measure that is present in the sample.
  8. Jan 8, 2018 #28
    stefan r, I can see your point of view. T Rex as an example of what has become a popular meme. And frankly, I DO NOT want to get involved with all the controversy and accumulated squabbling between professional claques over the privilege of naming and correcting the taxonomy of Earth Life. Please, spare me!

    The system I am advocating is for a simple method of categorizing life and possible life and questionably unbelievable life discovered above the Earth's Mesosphere. A simple system using a numerical slots.

    Eventually all the ego's are going to push their own naming systems and there is nothing we can do to prevent that. My system is a temporary preventive to give everyone time to reflect and consider what terminology they should be using.

    As an example the term 'bacteria' has a broadly specific meaning for Earth Biology. If we discover an Alien lifeform, of vaguely similar appearance to Earth Bacteria? The very first thing we need to admit is ignorance.

    i.e. We do not know if it occupies the same clade in it's native Alien Ecology that bacteria do in the Earth's ecology. It may eventually turn out to have completely different functions then we would expect from our experience with Earth bacteria.

    A simple numerical system of categories will allow for corrections and showing unexpected results. Nothing is written in stone. Random surprises and unexpected discoveries can be sorted out in a malleable nomenclature.
  9. Jan 16, 2018 #29
    So there is a 'bacteria' or some kind of microbial life that lives on the ISS. It lives in the harsh space enviornment. Everyone wants to know whether it came from Earth (and evolved?) or whether it came from an extraterrestrial source. While I too want to know where it traces back to... Part of me says WHO CARES!? There is LIFE in SPACE. It IS possible. That said I certainly hope we are not alone and have to spread across the Universe ourselves because it seems a bit lonely in something so vast it's seemingly infinite.
  10. Jan 16, 2018 #30

    stefan r

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    Also see Conan the Bacterium:
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  11. Jan 16, 2018 #31
    The organisms found on the ISS weren't tardigrades. Although water bears have been actually tested and found to survive in space.
  12. Jan 16, 2018 #32
    As far as we know though, space near Earth does not have indigenous life.
    The fact that some bacteria and other simple Earth organisms can survive for a while n space doesn't really help.
    Humans and other higher animals (and plants). cannot exist in space for more than a year or so without artificial life support,
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