“Fertile Imagination” Envisions Life on Titan

first_imgThe dramatic landing of the Huygens Probe on Titan over a year ago (01/14/2005, 01/21/2005, 12/05/2005) is finally getting some overdue notice from the media.  The PBS science series NOVA just aired a new program on Cassini-Huygens, “Voyage to the Mystery Moon” (see your local PBS station for rebroadcast times), and Astronomy Magazine’s May 2006 issue contained a pictorial summary by Bashar Rizk, “Saturn’s Titan Reveals Earthlike Surprises.”    The NOVA piece recaptured some of the drama of the mission, and Astronomy put together some of the finest mosaics of the landing site.  Both, however, couldn’t resist accentuating the L word.  Cassini-Huygens detected no life, no liquid water, and no molecules even closely resembling biological components.  The surface images showed a sterile wasteland of icy pebbles and orange sky.  Nevertheless, the writers spent significant time speculating about life.  Rizk wrote, “Surprisingly, Titan may be a suitable environment for life,” and again, “Only two things are lacking: a source of energy and a source of oxygen.  That’s enough to suggest the possibility of life to a fertile imagination.”    NOVA not only suggested that life could exist under the surface of Titan where presumably it might be warmer, but also suggested that the ice geysers on Enceladus (11/28/2005) make that moon another candidate for speculation about life.  The NOVA website includes an interview with Cassini imaging team lead Carolyn Porco, entitled “Life on a tiny moon?”  It begins, “liquid water is the sine qua non of life as we know it.  Indeed, Enceladus may have become, essentially overnight, the go-to body in the solar system in the search for extraterrestrial life.”  Lower down in the article, Porco admits this is “extreme speculation.”  In his article Rizk also added a disclaimer.  He called his description of life driving Titan’s atmospheric cycles an “extravagant explanation” and admitted that “No one seriously advocates this view…. Life is unnecessary to explain the observations.”    Couched in statement after statement celebrating life, however, such statements resemble the fine-print legal disclaimers required in sales brochures; or, they act something like quiet cops monitoring a parade, keeping the rowdy speculation from getting too far out of hand.Some day, one can hope that this bad habit of evolutionary drunks can be cured.  The drunks get high on methanol, which causes brain damage.  Wallowing in their stupor and verbal vomit, thinking everything is happy happy happy, engaging their fertile imaginations in euphoric visions of nonexistent beings, it escapes their notice that they are overlooking the most fundamental and essential aspect of life.  This aspect is sadly missing on Titan, Enceladus, Europa, Mars, and every other empty stage explored so far.  It is information.  Let rigorous observation and information theory bring some sobriety back to science, and rescue the next generation from a pitiful addiction.(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img