Friday, December 9, 2011

Life on Earth: Is our planet special?

For Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Earth lay at the centre of a small universe and the idea of alien life was unthinkable.

Since then the tide of opinion has turned. Astronomers have shown that Earth may be just one of myriad habitable worlds.

Meanwhile biologists have shed light on how life might have originated here, and therefore on other planets too.

Far from being unique, many now regard Earth as an ordinary lump of space rock and believe that life "out there" is almost inevitable. But could the truth be somewhat more complex?

On Friday, top scientists are meeting at the Geological Society in London to debate this very issue, posing the question: "Is the Earth special?". What emerges is that aspects of our planet and its evolution are remarkably strange. more