Unrecognized for what they are

A few months ago, BLDGBLOG explored suggestions by physicist Paul Davies that alien life may exist on Earth – though it would be unrecognizable to microbiologists, and thus ignored or wrongly identified.

Paul Davies now reviews a book by Peter Ward in New Scientist – and Davies writes some extraordinary things.
The planets in our solar system, for instance, “are not completely quarantined from each other. Debris splattered into space by comet and asteroid impacts gets distributed around the solar system. Mars and Earth in particular have been trading rocks throughout their history, and it is clear that microbes could hitch a ride and be transported in relative safety from one planet to the other.” Which could make for an award-winning Pixar film… Finding E. Coli.
“Martian organisms might not be alien at all,” Davies concludes, “but merely members of another branch on the terrestrial tree of life.”

Even better is “the intriguing idea” – mentioned above – “that alien organisms may lurk all around us, unrecognised for what they are because they fail to respond to standard biochemical analysis” – or they’re very bad at conversation. “For example, there could be microbes that use RNA instead of DNA, or employ a different genetic code.”
There is even a chance “that some viruses could be relics of ancient alternative forms of life.” Which blows me away! In other words, an infection is really an encounter with ancient life.
Living fossils inside injuries.
But my enthusiasm here is ultimately more inspired by the possibilities for landscape design, say, using gardens as a form of astrobiological research. It’s not a garden, it’s a laboratory; it’s not your backyard, it’s a kind of skin graft from an alien planet, a celestial infection of the earth. Patches from elsewhere. J.G. Ballard’s “nightmare world of competing organic forms” – an “insane Eden,” indeed.
One could even imagine a series of classified landscapes, grown by infrared in a cave beneath Los Alamos National Laboratory, incomprehensible genetic lines cultivated into a kind of aterrestrial Versailles. Fountains of amino acids washing slowly over alien flowers.
Weird topiary mazes made of symmetrical creeper vines from space.

(For more of this, see BLDGBLOG’s Alien Rain on India).

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