Astrobiologist: Life On Other Planets Likely, But Too Small To See

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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - Here's something to think about as you turn off the bedside lamp before going to sleep tonight, are we alone? Is Earth the only planet with intelligent life, or are there other civilizations out there, far beyond our capabilities to see or communicate? One retired astro-biologist is sharing his thoughts on the subject at Athens State University.

There's little doubt that the science fiction movies of the 1950's left an indelible mark on the American psyche when it comes to the question of life on other planets. Just the mention conjures up images of little green men or one-eyed monsters in space ships intent on taking over the earth. But astro-biologist Richard Hoover says the real question actually comes down to your definition of life. Hoover says it should include single-celled organisims too small to see with the bare eye.

"Most of life on earth is the tiny bacteria. The vast majority of the biomass on the planet Earth is single-celled organisms and single celled plants like diatoms," Hoover says.

Science has proven many of these cells can survive the cold vaccume of space. Some have been shown to survive thousands of years encased in ice. Based on that, Hoover says it's not a huge stretch to believe the ice cap of Mars may contain billions of living cells, or life. The same may hold true on other planets in our solar system, and beyond. But intelligent life?

"If you examine even single cell organisms and you find out that they know how to go toward food, they know how to go toward light, and they know how to go away from toxic things, even single cell bacteria exhibit a form of intelligence," Hoover says.

Hoover says Arthur C. Clark was once asked about the odds of finding intelligent life somewhere out in the universe. He says Clark responded by saying he was hopeful intelligent life may one day be discovered here on Earth. Hoover says it really just depends on what you're looking for, and how far you're willing to go to find it.

(Images courtesy of NASA)