III. A Revolutionary Organic Habitable UniVerse
H. An Astrochemistry to Astrobiological Fertility
Cottin, Herve, et al. Astrobiology and the Possibility of Life on Earth and Elsewhere. Space Science Review. Online September, 2015. A summary of this title 2011 – 2014 European Space Agency project whose team includes Charles Cockell, Julia Kotler, Frances Westall and Robert Pascal. Check this journal for future articles in more detail.
Cridland, Alex, et al. Connecting Planet Formation and Astrochemistry: A Main Sequence for C/O in Hot-Exoplanetary Atmospheres. arXiv:1910.13071. Leiden Observatory and McMaster University scientists including Ewine van Dishoeck and Ralph Pudritz post an extensive quantification of global, oxygen to carbon gaseous mixtures and interactions as they may evolve due to migrating large and small solar system objects.
Cunningham, Maria, et al, eds. Astrochemistry VII: Through the Cosmos from Galaxies to Planets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. These Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union Symposia S332 open with an Astrochemistry Overview by Ewine van Dishoeck. The volume goes on to convey how broad and deep this scientific endeavor has become as it proceeds to quantify and discover an inherently animate conducive ecosmos.
Since the discovery of ammonia in the interstellar medium of the Milky Way in 1968, we have identified around 160 complex organic molecules, which help us understand how stars and planets form. IAU S332 describes how such observations, combined with numerical modelling and laboratory astrochemistry, are used to study how the Universe has evolved.
Dagdigian, Paul. Quantum Statistical Study of the C+ + OH → CO + H+/CO+ + H Reaction. Journal of Chemical Physics. 151/054306, 2019. A Johns Hopkins University prolific senior chemist (view website) studies reaction rate and product branching ratio at interstellar temperatures. We cite as an integral meld of quantum and astrochemical phenomena at frontiers of our global verification of an organic, fertile, procreative ecosmic milieu. The work also conveys a 21st century biocosmic revolution in our midst which unifies all these disparate fields going forward.
Darling, David. Life Everywhere: The Maverick Science of Astrobiology. New York: Basic Books, 2001. A well-written survey of an innately fertile universe made to generate complex, quickening life.
From origin of life studies to complexity theory, from extrasolar planet detection to work on extremophiles, from pre-Cambrian paleontology to interstellar chemistry, the emerging message is clear and virtually unanimous: extraterrestrial life is there for the finding. (xii)
Davies, Paul. New Hope for Life Beyond Earth. Sky & Telescope. June, 2004. A new piece in the puzzle is the discovery of microbial organisms living at extremes of hot or cold temperatures, deep sea pressure or harsh chemical environments. With life’s niche much extended by these hardy “extremophiles,” it should conceivably be able to proliferate throughout the interstellar universe.
De Marcellus, Pierre, et al. Aldehydes and Sugars from Evolved Precommetary Ice Analogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112/965, 2014. A team of astronomers from France and Mexico report findings of these organic precursors, which are attributed to a primordial water-bearing milieu when the solar system formed. See also Detection of a Branched Alkyl Molecule in the Interstellar Medium: iso-propyl cyanide by Arnaud Belloche, et al, in Science (345/1584, 2014) and Water Formation in the Early Universe (arXiv:1503.03475).. With sophisticated instrumental and computational capabilities, aided by international collaborations, an innately life-bearing cosmos is being well quantified and proven.
In molecular clouds out of which stars and planetary systems form, simple solid-state molecules made in large part of H2O, CO, CO2, CH3OH, and NH3 are abundantly present. In these environments, energetic and thermal processes on these ices, which can be simulated in the laboratory, lead to complex organic matter. Possibly at the origin of the organic matter in our Solar System and incorporated into planetesimals, this material may be considered as a potential source for prebiotic chemistry on telluric planets, following a process that may be quite universal. The composition of these laboratory-evolved ices includes potentially prebiotic species such as amino acids and, as presented in this paper, aldehydes and sugars. (Significance)
De Vera, Jean-Pierre and Joseph Seckbach, eds. Habitability of Other Planets and Satellites. Berlin: Springer, 2013. Volume 28 in the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology series. The epochal discoveries of our Milky Way and a galactic cosmos seemingly filled with orbital spheres of every variety have spawned many studies as this, not possible earlier. An initial section is Habitable Zones and Life: Energy, Liquid Solvent, Information, and chapters go on from there to consider many aspects from how to detect bioworlds to earth analogs.
In the very last chapter (Part 8), we will summarize and give some conclusions, which cover the implications on the society if habitable worlds and even extraterrestrial life are discovered. The existence of other habitable worlds and life in the universe would complete the Copernican and Darwinian revolution and would emphasize that life is a universal phenomenon and not an anomaly or particularity. In a provoking further step, we might be able to formulate the thesis that the evolution of life and the formation of intelligence is a usual process in our universe. Discoveries supporting the last thesis could consequently have an important impact on religions, philosophy, and the human society itself. (Preface)
Des Marais, David, et al. The NASA Astrobiology Roadmap. Astrobiology. 3/2, 2003. Outlines of the space agency’s comprehensive program to explore three prime questions: How does life begin and evolve, does life exist elsewhere in the universe, and what is the future of life on Earth and beyond?
Dick, Steven. Critical Issues in the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Astrobiology. Astrobiology. 12/10, 2012. A lead presentation for the History and Philosophy of Astrobiology meeting held September 2011 fittingly on Ven Island, off the Danish coast, where astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1602) built his original telescope to scan the heavens. The emeritus NASA historian again lays out a thorough survey, via a dozen “Critical Issues,” as we begin to realize that a universe increasingly suffused with biomolecular precursors, widening habitable zones, and planetary prolificacy seems quite conducive for developing creaturely life and intelligences. This October issue is free online, see also Exoplanet Detection by Michael Perryman, Habitable Zones by Stephen Kane and Dawn Gelino, and a roundtable discussion. But when and how might a “Cosmic Evolution – the Master Narrative” he casts become legible enough via worldwide humankind to reveal its vital plot, story line, and resolution?
Fifty years after serious scientific research began in the field of exobiology, and forty years after serious historical research began on the subject of extraterrestrial life, this paper identifies and examines some of the most important issues in the history, philosophy, and sociology of what is today known as astrobiology. As in the philosophy of science in general, and in the philosophies of particular sciences, critical issues in the philosophy and sociology of astrobiology are both stimulated and illuminated by history. Among those issues are (1) epistemological issues such as the status of astrobiology as a science, the problematic nature of evidence and inference, and the limits of science; (2) metaphysical/scientific issues, including the question of defining the fundamental concepts of life, mind, intelligence, and culture in a universal context; the role of contingency and necessity in the origin of these fundamental phenomena; and whether or not the universe is in some sense finetuned for life and perhaps biocentric; (3) societal issues such as the theological, ethical, and worldview impacts of the discovery of microbial or intelligent life; and the question of whether the search for extraterrestrial life should be pursued at all, and with what precautions; and (4) issues related to the sociology of scientific knowledge, including the diverse attitudes and assumptions of different scientific communities and different cultures to the problem of life beyond Earth, the public ‘‘will to believe,’’ and the formation of the discipline of astrobiology. All these overlapping issues are framed by the concept of cosmic evolution — the 13.7 billion year Master Narrative of the Universe—which may result in a physical, biological, or postbiological universe and determine the longterm destiny of humanity. (Abstract)
Dick, Steven and James Strick. The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Mostly a history of how the characterization of and search for life in the solar system and cosmos came to be of central significance and definition for the agency.
Domagal-Goldman, Shawn and Katherine Wright, Co-Lead Editors. The Astrobiology Primer 2.0. Astrobiology. 16/8, 2016. A premier team of some 50 researchers from around the bioplanet including Sara Walker, Aditya Chopra, Chris Crockett, and William Brazelton, prepare an educational tutorial as collaborative Earthlings begin to explore an increasingly fertile and fecund galactic cosmos filled with solar systems. Some 25 pages of references are a further resource.