The first public interaction between aliens and humans may not come across in a scratchy signal from space nor in a space shuttle kidnapping.
Captivated by the mystery surrounding extraterrestrial life, Irish American scientist Gerald F. Joyce at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego has been attempting to create simple life forms in his lab by engineering types of RNA to ultimately discover where we, as humans, originated from.
His work has drawn widespread attention including an article on The New York Times front page on Thursday.
Dr. Joyce stated “It drives me crazy when astronomers say, ‘Surely the universe is pregnant with life.’ If we have an Earthlike planet, what are the chances of life arising? Is it one in a million? Is it one in two? I don’t see how you can say.”
He continued, “If you had a second example of life, even if it were synthetic, you might know better. I’m betting we’re just going to make it.”
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Dr. Joyce and a graduate student, Tracey A. Lincoln, evolved a molecule in a test tube that could replicate and evolve all by itself, The new York Tims wrote.
Joyce points out that neither RNA nor DNA is alive by itself, however in his test tube he created a molecule that was able to replicate itself.
Joyce says that's close to independent life, but there is still work to do. “We really would hope for more from our molecules than just replicating.”
At the institute, Joyce’s goal is to “provide insight to how it began and how special life is or is not in the universe, as well as a clue for how to recognize life if and when we do stumble upon it out there among the stars,” he explained to the NY Times.