A Wrinkle in Nature Could Lead to Alien Life

I grew up in a small village in a very rural part of England. It was a landscape capped with the huge skies of a low-lying coastal zone. Gently rolling fields, long hedgerows, and a lot of farms. Some of the people running those farms came from so many generations that they could point to the sites of their forebears’ land-working going back over four centuries. As a child it was fascinating to hear the farmers reflect on the profound changes wrought to that land and their little-concealed wonderment at their ancestors for coping without the accoutrements of the modern world that so many of us benefit from. It seems that, for those long-past generations, the rules of existence were fundamentally different.

Today, we face a similar puzzle when we look out across the cosmos that spawned us to speculate about the nature of alien lineages. Our own planet wasn’t always the way it is today, and a bewildering variety of body plans and biochemical strategies have already arisen and gone extinct. We simply don’t know whether the experimentations of Darwinian evolution on exoplanets and distant galaxies are destined to converge to strategies familiar to us. Either now,

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