If the magic of life is dazzling here, it is out there too. Among the stars, the search may be difficult, but what about within the catacombs of our mind? If, ‘seeing is believing’, then thinking and understanding is certainly philosophy. Let’s take a fresher look in all that we know of, polish a little, and start a fresh chain of thought. Why not shed the boundaries of scientific disciplines, start at the very beginning, and think, as we walk the walk of life.

Who says the answers are impossible?

Monday, 9 January 2012

'Déjà vu’ or simply a ‘status quo’.

It was lunch time at Los Alamos National Laboratory in California. The year was 1950. Renowned physicist Enrico Fermi was having a candid conversation with few of his colleagues on topics ranging from UFO sighting to the possibility of the existence life outside the planet earth. As physicists do, soon they were engrossed in discussion on interstellar travel at a speed greater than that of light and the use of such travel technology by advance alien species in reaching earth. Please remember that this was an era of considerable interest in UFO sightings. It may not have all started with the now infamous Roswell UFO incident, rather crass, which has gained tremendous public and media attention just three years back. For reasons quite strange, that decade and two following it, has quite a fistful of strange and unidentified encounters of the alien kind.
One reason behind this strange UFO frenzy of that time could have been mere psychological. The world, just out of the mayhem of Second World War was in a state of paranoia. Fear psychosis was high, you can say for anything, which has the capability of destroying humanity. The very thought of yet another global catastrophe or war, not from within, but from outside this planet was being associated with any strange sighting in the night sky. Early 20th century science fiction writers have already shown the world what to expect from an alien attack, and those pale jumpy lights in the night sky were adding fuel this global fear factor. Human race had always revered Armageddon; UFOs were just another way for many to believe that probably the end of days are near.
  Anyway, coming back to Fermi, he did some calculations over a cup of coffee and said, “If there is intelligent life out there, then they should have visited earth in the past, many times over, but where are they?” He was not ready to take the UFOs for their face value and actually wanted to debate, that if these UFOs are for real, then why won’t they come out and have a direct contact with us? He also asked where are the signs that the aliens visited earth and left their mark here, if they are so numerous in the universe? Unfortunately, there was neither any answer in 1950, nor even today.
Over the past half a century, many theories have come up to counter this famous Fermi Paradox. Some of the theories are quite appealing, some workable and other pure nonsense. Anyway, today I am in no mode to take up those theories and judge them on their merits or demerits, but I am having a different plan altogether. Today, I will take up the Fermi paradox from the perspective of an alien species, which has been charged by the earthlings of sneak peeking into their planet. The reason behind this exercise is straightforward. For long, the primary goal of the proponents of alien visitation theory has been to ask, ‘Why should they visit?’ However, if for a moment, we change our approach and imagine that we have all the recourses to make an intergalactic voyage to a far flung habitable planet, and then logically work our way down to deduce why should we be traveling there in the first hand. Remember such intergalactic travels and not mere walk down the central park or Broadway. They need resources and tremendous logistics; whichever way you may decide to travel. So, unless you have a solid reason to go earth, there is no sponsor for your UFO in your alien society. Just remember this stark fact of life, there would have been no America, or new sea route to India, if there were no Spanish and Portuguese dynasty backing Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and Vasco da Gama.
Now before we begin, I would like to introduce another appealing factor or constant in the equation of any evolving life form. This constant, as I will explore in the next few paragraphs, will be extremely valuable in understanding why and when should an intelligent species decide to become a spacefaring race.
 The other day, as I was waiting in Penn station, in down town Manhattan, for a train to Long Island, the importance of this constant became extremely obvious to me. At that time, there should have been around a couple of hundred people in the railway platform, all going about their own business. It was an office time commute and the platforms soon swelled with the crowd beyond their capacity. However, something was quite strange in that sea of humanity. There was hardly any socialization going on over there, outside regular and known circles. Every individual was engrossed in their own thoughts, eagerly waiting for their desired trains. It is obviously a common phenomenon and most of has witnessed it sometime or the other. You can always argue that a railway platform, an airport lounge or a crowded bus terminus is hardly a place for candid socialization, as it’s a population made up of complete strangers, and people do like to keep to themselves than reach out in such circumstances, right? And by now, you would have probably started to doubt the intention and the outcome of this article.
Well, frankly speaking, it’s not such a trivial observation, and it does give a strange insight into the working of a living species, its collective evolution oriented consciousness, and is obviously a yard stick in the search for intelligent species in the universe. Let me show you how.
If you remember, in one of my earlier post, I have dealt a great deal on the importance of reaching out for biomolecules or alien biochemistry to initiate panspermia. I have even mentioned that without reaching out phenomenon, acting at full potential, the framework of life would not have been successful in earth or anywhere else in the universe you can imagine of. So, here I would like to pose one question. Does ‘reaching out’ always perpetuate? Is it noteworthy in every strata of any successful evolution? If it is such a dogma, then why there was so limited reaching out, in Penn station, by a crowd of intelligent consciousness?
The answer is quite tricky. Reaching out phenomenon will work in coherence with evolution for a certain entity, but not for time eternity to be frank. If I have to sum up its progression mathematically, I would envisage a sigmoidal curve over a time and evolutionary axis.  First of all, there will be a slow progression of this curve, near to the base line of evolution axis, as the molecules will try to establish themselves in an alien environment. Once the initial phase is over, and the molecules have absolved the possibility of extinction, they will start an exponential phase of the interaction cycle with other native molecules in their environment. Not all of them will be successful or productive, most will face dead ends, but they will try viciously. Over time, if things go well, our pet molecule will fully and functionally dominate its niche, and once it happens, there will be a paradigm shift in their behaviour towards the phenomenon of reaching out. The enthusiasm to reach out and seek new interaction partners will gradually subside. Our mathematical curve will smoothen over time axis, and you can call this phase of a ‘status quo’ has been reached.
 Now don’t mistake me in believing that evolution will stop altogether. What I simply imply is, once a state of the status quo has been achieved, the paradigm of evolution will enter the next available level, where, it will start the process of seeking altogether from scratch.  If all these, which I have mentioned till now, were happening at the level of biomolecules, then the next steps will start at the level of intact cells, constituted of complex molecules in successful interaction mesh work. The process will repeat as long as there is a scope for a higher complex order or level to exist. Biomolecules will give rise to unicellular compact cells, which will proceed into multicellular organisms and finally ‘reaching out phenomenon’ will be knocking the door of a complexity of unprecedented capability called intelligence and consciousness. However, remember that the bottom line is, ‘next step in any evolution can hardly happen until there is some short of the status quo in the preceding level of complexity’. Thus, a ‘status quo’ enjoys the same privilege, as ‘reaching out’, in any evolutionary process.
Now, let’s try to understand what happens within a level of complexity that has already attained a status quo. You will see not much, evolution wise, happening in there. Every component in that level will try to maintain its own position and will try to contain the harmony, which it has established within its interaction net. As biochemist, that is what we regularly map for a protein within cells, to identify its function. This is called system biology, and if you search the scientific literatures, you can find fascinating interaction maps already scaled out for fruit fly Drosophila, beakers yeast and microbes like Escherichia coli. These interaction maps are a treasure trove of information and believe it or not they are quite stable, and took over millions of year of evolution to attain the status quo which defines life on earth. However, when pathogens like viruses try to make us ill, they simply disturb this ‘status quo’ by squeezing into this complicated interaction mesh, through molecular mimicry, for their own benefit. It is as simple as that.
If you are wondering, what has ‘status quo’ to do with my observation in Penn station, then I must tell you here, that it is the very same phenomenon,  but at the level of  human consciousness that leads to such an obliviousness among us towards others, which is  regularly observed in unfamiliar crowded places. This conclusion is not quite difficult to grasp, if you look deeper into the working of our consciousness.
 In any social structure, there need to be always a ‘status quo’ to qualify as a civilized society. We may all have our own individual interaction cycle or comfort zone, but we only venture out when need compels. However, each individual interaction cycle is a working component of the complete human social grid encompassing all the populations, which is in an equilibrium or ‘status quo’. Remember one thing very clearly here; until and unless there has been a serious challenge to this equilibrium in social, environmental or any other parameter, to any species, reaching out technically never happened.
 It holds particularly true for the human race if you study Anthropology.  The classic migration of humans out of Africa into the other continents, as shown in the map below, never happened until there was a serious scarcity of food. So is true for other migrations, associated with different species, in the planet earth. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the quest for migration, resettlement and adaptation to a new world is always a last option for any living entity, wherever they may live, in this universe. 

So armed with all this discussion let’s try to understand under what condition, we, the prodigal little green men from Kepler-22b, would like to launch our UFOs for planet earth, and convenience our finance ministers and taxpayers to sponsor our 600 light year journey, which may take over a few generations to complete, may not return with any answer for a few thousand years, which may take over a few generations to complete, may not return with any answer for a few thousand years, not in the life time of your present financers. Well, wait, I heard you. You think you will be using advance transportation like worm hole and gravity drive. Chill out friends, if you do so, then you are even asking for more and more resources. If had you been using such things, why don’t we earthlings see you every day having coffee with us? Probably, it may not be such an easy affair after all using warm holes for mass transit and if you were so advance, then you would have solved your planet’s problem long back, and wouldn’t have to come to my planets like thieves.
So, if UFOs are for real, and they are manned by little green men from other worlds, then one thing is for certain, the status quo in their evolving society may have been challenged somehow, and that’s why they are here. So, what could have upset their status quo? Let’s try point wise and answer them.
1.       Some minerals getting depleted in their environment (gold?) and they are out here looking for it. Definitely, you must be kidding. All planets in a particular planetary system may look different superficially and geologically, but in elemental composition, they will be quite similar. If earthlings want to mine gold or silver thousand years from now to sustain their technology. I think, logically and logistically the best bet would be Mars, Moon or any of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn than Kepler-22b or any planet in Alpha century or Epsilon eridani.

2.       The species have overpopulated their home planet and need a new home. Hmm, that sounds interesting. Still, before I can sanction your budget of gazillion alien dollar space mission, I would ask you to consider populating the neighbouring planets first. If you were an earthling, I would ask you to consider Mars and Moon first. Next, I would show you Titan and Europa.  I will even urge you to make space settlements, which can harness the energy of your Sun, than straightway giving a nod to your funky mission of populating an already populated alien planet. Not only a few light years ride is a tremendous deterrent, but you have also to consider the resistance your species will face from native populations and their pathogens. Is it really worth the risk?

3.       What if the sun of their planet is dying? Yes, then you surely need a new home planet and a new sun. The journey is one way ticket and your species status quo is royally birched. In such a scenario, the story does look promising and possible. You surly will need to move with all your population in colossal spaceships and won’t mind generation wide travels. In such a case earth and its Sun could be to your liking and I have no doubt about it. You could hide your spaceship in the Asteroid belts and keep on sending scout missions to earth as UFOs. That does make sense. However, one problem, should you be not communicating with your UFOs from your mother ship? Why we earthlings don’t listen anything at all? Two possibilities, one you are not there at all. Second, we don’t know what to listen to.Hay, anybody down here on earth listening to me?

4.       You are interested in basic scientific knowledge to lunch UFOs to earth. Nobody is going to sanction your mission. It does not have any profitable outcome. Getting answers will take ages for you. Of course, you won’t be discouraged. You will be asked to use optical and radio telescopic methods to carry out your search. Still, a nod for a manned mission seems improbable, until you prove that earth and earthlings are hospitable.
So, what do we conclude to end this story? Nothing perhaps, Probably Fermi was right in asking ‘where are they?’ Intelligent aliens could be common in the universe, but real intelligent motive for light years spanning space travel are hard to come, at least from an earthling who is writing this blog. I may be wrong. I wish I am! For, however we may write about the ‘status quo’, reaching out will always be there in our blood.
What would do you say??

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What if they never talk back?

A question has been bothering me for quite some time now and is recently compounded with the discovery of Kepler-22b. As you all may by this time know that Kepler-22b is a planet discovered in the habitable zone of a sun-like star by NASA, as reported on 5th December 2011 through update on their website and press conferences. The discovery got worldwide media attention and excitement in soon to melt down. Watching the news on TV, I was wondering, what to make out of it! Should I rejoice this spectacular find or cry out in utter despise, cursing our own technological infancy?
It may sound crazy, but the fact of the matter is, our hands are tied. God only knows, for how many ages, before definite signs of the presence or sere absence of life comes from the surface of Kepler-22b. It may as well never come, and we might lose interest before it ever decides to reveal to us. The cosmos is too big of a party to date a single planet out there, right?  
However, we may be sure of certain facts that, in future, missions like Kepler will discover more planets in other solar system’s habitable zones. NASA, on its part, has already announced that along with Kepler-22b, Kepler mission has also discovered more than 1,000 planet candidates, some probably in the habitable zone, and need further studies and observations to affirm their actual planet-hood, if you may it say so.
These are short of thrilling news, which comes with the ‘what next’ tag, and unfortunately, that ‘What next’ is centuries of wait from an astrobiological or biochemical perspective!

I remember a complete trivial and non-scientific predicament, quite similar to this one, of my own life, if I try to explain this situation on a lighter note. A year back, when I was still a graduate student in India, I happened to watch an international food show on lobster culinary. The presenter glorified a lobster dish, one of my few favourites, from a downtown Boston eatery. It was so tempting then, that I was feeling the pain of not being there in Boston to enjoy the dish. The anguish of suppressed temptation is always overpowering, for me, it was hell then! Not only, at that time, my savoury foot long lobster was being cooked to perfection at the other side of the world, a mere 8120 miles walk, but also I didn’t have the proper official paper works to come to United States too! I had realised then, that it is far better not to know, than knowing but not having it.
However, my dream came true within one year. I had my lobster in that very same eatery in due course and regretted my year old devilish temptation over the first few bites. Well, it truly didn’t take me long for fulfilment, if you consider one year is just a joy ride around the sun, but what about an astrobiologist’s eagerness with Kepler-22b? Aren’t we at the very brink of similar excitement, in just thinking, that there could be intelligent life, out there, in this particular planet or others, which Kepler mission is discovering? The very thought of a galactic long distance call and a sweet replay of an encouraging hallo is enough to die for from that maverick planet, isn’t it?
However, the basic facts are too discouraging, not from an astronomical, but astrobiological angle! Just consider these preliminary NASA observations. Kepler-22b’s orbital period is 290 days around its host sun-like star, which is slightly smaller and cooler than our own Sun. The planet is 2.4 times the radius of Earth, and whether it is predominantly rocky, gaseous or of liquid composition is yet to be determined and will probably take a few decades to find out. You can find more details on NASA web page (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/kepscicon-briefing.html). These facts, for sure, should make us speculate that probably Kepler-22b is the one we have been looking for. Now, if you are an Astrobiologist and want to look deeper with your magnifying glasses, then you are asking for trouble. Your lobster hunt for intelligent life on this planet, if there is any, will take a ride of 600 years, if you are cruising at the speed of light!
Far discouraging than anticipated!
 However, on a brighter note, these Kepler mission discoveries are giving fantastic proof that planets are probably more numerous in the universe than previously thought. As more and more of them will be fished out from the habitable zone of stars, we can safely imagine that they will have liquid water on their surface for carbon or silicon based biochemistry to take shape, and their surface temperature would be cordial to sustain these reactions. Indirectly, it does give a significant push to speculative astrobiology, and some centuries henceforth, probably, we could declare that Solar system was not, after all, a mere cosmic accident. Now, if we are not in a mood to wait a millennia for answers and are adamant about a quick reply in our own lifetime, the best which can be done, and I am quite sure of it, is SETI will be locking its big gun Allen Telescope Array (ATA) on these new found planets for any sign of artificial radio activity (More details on SETI Institute’s initiative at their website -http://www.seti.org/node/905).
Still, there are problems, as I have mentioned at the beginning of this article. What if the civilizations out there are in no mood to explore? What if there are mostly hermit kingdoms out there in the universe?  
Let’s take an example. Why not go back in space and time (again!) and try to understand what I am trying to imply.
Consider that you are in a planet X, in some different solar system, light years away, five thousand years behind present time. Now, with your own Kepler mission, you have discovered the Planet Earth in the habitable zone of a star, which apparently will be our good old Sun. Your computers and algorithms will undoubtedly tell you that this planet is most likely habitable; biochemistry will be possible and probably is teeming with life, after it has analysed all your astronomical data. Excited, your next move, will be to look for radio activity of artificial or intelligent origin in this particular astronomical coordinates. With all your advance telescopes, siting, say some 300 light-years away from earth, soon you will be an extremely disappointed scientist! There won’t be anything to listen to!
Instead of five thousand years, if you crank up your clock ahead by four thousand eight hundred years and again try to listen, still you will have nothing to report to your own world. Disheartened, you may conclude that probably earth could be habitable with lots of scepticism in your mind based on your astronomical data, but you can never envisage an intelligent species on this third planet from the Sun. However, down here, at the very time of your observation, pyramids were being built; the human civilization was discovering the fun of creativity through the renaissance, and minds like Newton, and Galileo were establishing the foundation of modern physics for a future space faring race. Of course if you live two hundred years more, your experiment will be successful. Still believe me, if I were in your boots, I wouldn’t have wasted 600 years of my scientific life on a single planet, as there are 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe and probably a few zeros less are the number of planets in their respective habitable zones to look for my prized results!
There is also a discouraging possibility of speciation in a planet never crossing into the complexity of multicellular life. It may have been the case with Mars. In such a scenario, it is well possible that the universe is actually timing with life but is mostly confined in the microbial forms. The other fascinating possibility is that there could be intelligent multicellular life out there somewhere, but they are not interested in exploring the universe, rather still, are unaware, in every sense, that there could be other celestial bodies out there like their own in the universe! Their home planet could have a perpetual cloud cover; or life could be of permanently living in an icy world.
Consider the case of Europa. Europa is thought to have an outer layer of water, some 100 km thick, with a frozen-icy upper crust. The liquid water beneath could well be a salty liquid ocean, as shown by recent magnetic field data from Galileo orbiter. Ambient temperature maintained by under water volcanoes, saline water, abundance of organic molecules from bombarding comets could easily jump start a biosphere in Europa’s oceans. You can even consider extremely complex intelligent life out there if evolution happens to play the predator and prey game, in the same fashion, as it has played on earth. Yes, it is a fact that the evolution of complex intelligence is related to the predatory game. I am planning to write about it in my next post. Coming back to the topic of discussion, such a hypothetical intelligent life in Europa will hardly ever need to feel the pain of celestial isolation as their life will be confided in the boundaries of a saline ocean with an icy canopy. For them, probably, there are no stars out there to look for beyond the ice and no Kepler-22b to write on. It’s even worrisome to imagine, that if intelligent life on earth were also ocean dwellers could we ever have envisioned a space programme?
Therefore, the point is quite straightforward. We look for because we were mesmerised by the stars for ages. Firstly, they were a subject of curiosity, secondly they became a matter of study, and finally, they became a destination for exploration. We simply explored to start with, because we had a clear sky to look up to. Believe me; others in this universe may not be so damn lucky! 
So, what do we do? Wait for someone to contact us first? Well, that certainly is not what astrobiology is all about. Obviously, discovery of an intelligent counterpart of ours in the cosmos will be a holy grail, but that sounds more as a prologue to sleazy intergalactic politics, funky trade and travel than pure astrobiology.  Astrobiology, in a nut shell, stands for defining a living universe. Its main goal is not finding intelligent life in the universe, but if I may say so, is to delineate the rightful place of life in context to the evolution of the universe. It final accomplishment will be framing a theory of life, which; I think can be integrated within the framework of physics and can trace the root of life from the inception of the big bang.
Than what is for us, poor biochemist, to do? Well, the answer is easy, let’s explore in, not out, for the time being. If we think that we could wait for NASA to build us a spacecraft to take us to Kepler-22b for real field job, then we are asking for too much, and too soon. Let our grandchildren or their grandchildren fight for that.
For us, let’s look down and ask, ‘Do we know our own icy world any better than the universe out there?’ A planet, with a third of its surface covered with water has enough places for field experiment to determine ancient panspermia. The water world of the earth is still a mostly uncharted territory. Not all the niches are well understood, particularly the deep pockets within the ocean beds. If panspermia ever happened in this planet, in all possibilities, it happened in our oceans. The stakes are quite high. Not only will the comets carrying, organic precursors, have more probabilities of landing in the oceans than on earth, more so, water with its ambient temperature and solvation will be more cordial in sustaining biochemistry of an alien origin. So, if you think it is out there, it is unquestionably out here, somewhere, waiting to be found.
Now it is for us to decide whether we will leave the glories of astrobiological discoveries to our future generations and enjoy the sun, with a glass of bear, on the beaches of Atlantic or take a deep drive in the Atlantic ourselves.
What do you say?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

‘Elementary my dear Watson’- Evolution, its Fate, and Some Simplistic Thinking.

There are times when we all feel that we are so close to the truth, but we cannot explain them to others for the want of suitable evidence. Astrobiology also has the same predicament. Sometime, every researcher in biochemistry and astronomy feel that it’s all out there, but the humongous scale of the astrobiological research and observational disparity always becomes a deterrent. It’s unfair to associate such unjust thoughts to the modern researchers; even the ancient philosophers and thinkers faced the dilemma when it came to universal life!
Going back in time, if you happen to study the antediluvian cave arts, which are mostly of pre-biblical ages, stars and celestial bodies formed an important part in their subjects. Star maps were extensively drawn, and many of our ancient Gods had their names derived from astral bodies. Reasons behind such paintings have different explanations in modern times and scientific literature. Theories ranging from the pictorial depiction of the only possible navigational source our ancestors could perceive of in those times, to far fetching possibilities of star travellers paying a visit to earth in those times and teaching our forefathers where, and what, to look for in the dazzling night sky are there to subscribe to. I have no intention today to prove, or disprove these theories. Neither will I go into a discussion of what is the meaning behind these ancient arts forms could be. However, I would like to emphasize, that whatever they were meant to be, they did show that the question of universality of life must have bothered our fore fathers as they are doing us now. Otherwise, our Gods won’t have been believed to be living in the stars!
Now, look at the tragic side of this age long quest. With more than thirty thousand years of brain storming, we are still at the same shore, waiting for the ferry of proof to surface in the horizon, which will say that we are not the only living thing in this universe!  Can it ever be proven otherwise? I am an optimist and with the pace of the present research, and all those back to back NASA and EASA missions, that someday could be any day in our life time itself, who knows!
Still, I feel it may not always be a billion-dollar experiment and deep-space exploration where lies our only hope and conclusion to this quest. We can anyway take the path of philosophy as a second option or as a backup plan. It is well said by someone, that where science ends, philosophy begins!
Now, please don’t get me wrong on this. I seriously do believe in deep-space explorations. They are the best evidence seeker we currently have and what we are getting out of them as a source of direct results can never be supplemented with top notch philosophical thinking. A comprehensive outcome of such experiments is well covered in an article in the New Scientist recently, (Introduction-Astrobiology) and I won’t be copying from that article to enrich my thoughts. What I really want to drive home today is a simple thought, that for poor souls like me, and the substantial population of thinks out there who believe in astrobiology and don’t have elaborate, trillion-dollar setups to explore the cosmos, can still investigations in the universality of life, holding the hands of elementary philosophy and intuitive thinking! Let me show you how!
Let’s make a voyage in space and time in our thoughts! Why not go back down the time dimension, to a period when time was toddling itself! Yes, I am talking about the big bang here! Can we take a joy ride from there to today’s time, with an open eye, understanding every single change and event, which took place over the course of this duration?
Believe me, it will be a fun tusk and finding out resources for this journey is also not difficult! If you don’t have access to high end scientific literature and journals for your research, some books like the ‘Elegant Universe’ by Brian Greene or any book on the big-bang theory could well be your guiding beacon. 
Now all set, try to follow the evolution of the universe from the time of the big bang, to the formation of first and next-generation stars and galaxies, through the origin of solar system, planets, life and finally to the inception of consciousness and intelligence here on planet Earth. Leave everything else out; only follow this story and its different epochs.
 What are you seeing now? It will be a bit complicated, but we can make it simple in the terms of chemistry and round-the-mill physics. In the beginning, you will see the primordial plasma of extreme energy density with high temperature and pressure, which will explode to end the singularity (complete breakdown of physical laws) and giving rise to the first elementary particles, the basic building blocks of the universe just after the big bang. The elementary particles then, in turn, with their relativistic speed, in an expanding univers, will tip the balance of matter over antimatter once and for all, paving the way further evolution. The expanding, but rapidly cooling baby universe, in due time will become suitable for the formation of Protons, Neutrons Positrons and Electrons (Spare me for not going into the details of how). Now, you will witness that the universe is coming out of the realm of pure particle physics as it will brace itself for the next level of molecular complexity. Protons and Neutrons will be combining to form Dueterium and Helium, though a vast majority of the Protons will still remain as Hydrogen nuclei. The simplistic nature of these early events will soon take a turn towards complexity of the galactic scale. Gravitational pull among the molecules will locally condensed them into colossal plumes of gaseous clouds. Here, for the first time, you will witness the birth of the first galaxies and the star cradles. When increasing gravitational pull condenses these clouds to extreme high density, where hydrogen molecules can randomly collide and initiate fusion reaction, the first ray of light will sparkle in the universe, and you will see the birth of the first star! To cut a very long story short, all stars in the beginning will be making Helium by the fusion of Hydrogen atoms. Over time, as the Hydrogen core of these stars will get depleted of their fuel, new fusion reaction will commence. Heavier elements like Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulphur and other candidates of the periodic table will start showing up for the first time. Over the process of this cosmic nucleosynthesis, in the course of a few billion years, you will witness many solar births and supernovas and slowly but surely, you can collect almost all the elements you have ever known.
Until now, you were in the realm of inorganic chemistry. No one is sure when and how, these primary elements, or at least some of them, will decide to spin the complex network of biochemistry. In one crossroad of your journey, you will witness simple bio-molecules, capable of tolerating the torturous harshness of the interstellar space start appearing. You can sample Methane, Methanol, Formaldehyde, Polycyclic aromatic, Ammonia, Carbon dioxide, and if you have good detection skills, and you are lucky, you can even find diamonds and fullerenes!
Did it happen before the birth of the solar system, or the Earth? Definitely yes, they were out there, larking in minimal concentration in the interstellar medium, in the nebula and comets. When earth and its likes came into being, these biomolecules landed in quite a proportion on the planetary surface through bombardment of the comets. These seeded planets, with their cordial geology and atmosphere, acted as giant incubators and catalysts to sustain these biomolecules to reach their destiny of brewing biospheres out of inanimacy.
Ok, now that we have covered the boring part of universal history, let’s dig into some fascinating stuff ahead! Zoom your thoughts into Earth’s past. Isn’t it pages out of some science fiction, the last three and a half billion years, you see before yourself? From simple biomolecules, you are witnessing the evolution of the most advance living species on the planet, with a complex level of consciousness, unprecedented in history. This particular species is the magnum opus of the evolution. They have skills which, in a way, were altogether changing the direction of planetary fate, even the nature of biochemical evolution on the earth. They were directing evolution themselves, like God, you may say so!
No, I am not planning to take you into the pages of theosophy or bring into the topic of evolution versus intelligent design here. My intention is to frame a simple question, ‘Whether, the evolution of intelligence, in any species, is written in the code book of genesis as an important and unavoidable milestone? And whether this intelligence is actually necessary for further evolution of the universe?’
The solution lies in understanding the design and definition of life as an open thermodynamic system, with the capability of information processing for sustainability and further evolution.
Now, if you try to quantitate the state of an evolution, considering the level of information processing as an important parameter, you will conclude that the progress of man as a species, in the last millennium, is not completely dependent on inherited biological skills! There are other complexities beyond his cranium capability, which he has developed to supplement his own information-processing requirements to progress further. You could see that the advent of silicon-based intelligence, or in simple terms computers, are actually becoming part of the evolutionary process of humans.
Was this some short of a grand accident in favour of human? Alternatively, this could be an inevitable outcome of any complex evolutionary process, where, at some epoch, carbon-based biochemistry, (since this is abundant in the universe) will eventually invent composite silicon-based chemistry, to handle the burden of increasing load of information processing. In time, the former will aid in the step by step evolution of the letter as a subsidiary to organic life, and finally will get completely outcompeted and outnumbered to the Frankenstein of their own making. Thus, will begin a new era in universal evolution!

Science fiction staff, right? Well, I won’t blame you from thinking so, as it does sound like an extremely outrageous possibility. However, there are few points in it, which cannot be overlooked.
 Firstly, if life has to jump start from scratch anywhere in the universe, there will always be a limit to its evolution, however hard life may try! Say in earth, 3.5 billion years of life’s evolution does have created millions of species, but all of them are completely adapted, thus enslaved, by the conditions which the planet has provided over the ages. They cannot tolerate any type of conditions which are beyond the planetary extremes. So, if the evolution of life has to progress further, beyond the planetary horizon, they need to evolve out of bonds of their restraining chemistry and think of more durability in sustaining themselves. Therefore, somewhere down the line, they will evolve skills in directed evolution. If you are thinking, why life need to go beyond its planetary borders, then you should remember, that a complex and highly evolved life would need a colossal amount of energy to survive, which, may well be beyond the capability of the home planet alone.
Secondly, keeping to the point of energy consumption by life, and considering the Kardashev scale of advancement of civilization with the progress in evolution (See the link for details. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale), we can see that a level two and a level three civilizations will be harnessing the energy output of their respective stars and galaxies. It is quite impossible to assume that this can be done by life forms of any particular type or kind, without the aid of artificial and complex systems. Again, there is a need of directed evolution here!
Third point will be tricky! We have to guess a little on what is the actual goal of evolution of life and intelligence in the universe is, with the supposition that this is not a lone accident here on planet earth. In such a scenario, if it is assumed, as many have told before, that the final aim of life in the universe is related to complex information processing and storing for an unknown reason, related to the evolution of the universe per see, then, in due course, any life, where ever it may have evolved, need to break its bond with its parental home and spread out into the depth of the universe to achieve its goal. How can it do it alone?
So, what does all this discussion lead us to?
Probably, you may think, that I have just got too far with this blog! However, for me, by telling you the story of directed evolution and the predictability in evolution of artificial computation, I may have been able to convenience you of certain things. If, in the search of extra-terrestrial life with intelligence, someone is expecting to find a wired creature, or a humanoid green man, they may be quite wrong somewhere and missing something.
 Considering an advance civilization, which can transverse the length of the universe and are interested in us. Then, instead of flying saucers, probably, we can even expect them to be burst of energy, representing complex coded programmes, urging to communicate in mathematical language, as seen in so many Arthur C Clarks novels!
Why not? It will be the best bait, in every sense, for any civilization to get transformed into coded information themselves to travel long universal distances (remember teleportation in Star trek?). It is the simplicity, and energy economy of the whole idea that’s made this proposition so interesting! If being alive is processing information, then the best way to live is by being information itself! You don’t need a fragile biochemical system to keep you alive, you don’t need to be something complex, and you can travel at the speed of light, zooming through the galaxies looking for listeners and waiting to get downloaded. Fun isn’t it?
If you’re thinking these are 21st century thoughts from science fiction writers like Arthur C Clark and likes, then look at this passage from Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Hinduism.

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

Translation-As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

Surely, I won’t spend any more time to correlate the ancient concept of non-destructive soul with the modern concept of universality of consciousness and beyond. Is it not self-evident? What would you say?