SECTION 3 – QUESTIONS 28 - 40
Questions 28 - 40
Read the following passage and answer Questions 28 - 40.
The Search for Life in Outer Space
Ever since the human mind has been able to think outside the box and the extent of outer space has gradually become known, the question of whether we are alone or not has fascinated us. The possibility of a different type of life, in imaginable or unimaginable forms, has shaped scientific research and the development of different cultures and traditions around the world.
When Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer, first detected Mars with a primitive telescope in 1609, mankind was, for the first time, confronted with the idea that planet Earth was probably not the centre of the universe. Other planets, even greater than Earth, possibly dominated the space around us. Astronomer Schiaparelli's observations two hundred and seventy years later resulted in a superficial map of Mars' surface being constructed, containing linear features. These, Schiaparelli said, hinted at waterways, possibly created by an intelligent race. Even though these observations were later discarded and described as an optical illusion, the hope of another form of life on Mars was not completely given up until the 1960's, when NASA's Mariner spacecraft landed on Mars and finally provided photographs and scientific evidence that gave proof of the uninhabitable nature of Earth's red neighbour. However, when the idea of life in outer space is discussed, Mars is often still brought up as one of the first subjects, and this is possibly due to its early discovery in mankind's search of the universe around us.
A study released recently reports that ancient Mars harboured a form of nitrogen that could potentially have been used by microbes, if any existed, to build key molecules, such as amino acids. Bored samples from a sedimentary mudstone had previously allowed Mars-rover team members to conclude that, billions of years ago, the area was part of a potentially life-supporting lake-and-stream system. The discovery of fixed nitrogen contributes to this habitability picture. This, however, is not the kind of life that people often think about. People want discovery of an intelligent life, not a tiny microbe.
Today, different projects and organisations have tried to shed light on the controversial issue of intelligent life in outer space. The SETI organisation, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence and the largest organisation of its kind, has not seen any success in the past fifty years. Even though this does not eliminate the possibility of other forms of life, it does imply that if they do exist, they do so far from our reach, and these distances complicate any advances in the field. Radio messages and light impulses are seen as methods to communicate with other races, and SETI as well as other organisations and research facilities operate and have operated with these signals. It is likely that lasers will be developed to exploit their even greater range within a few years.
In the past, several attempts to communicate and give evidence of our existence have been made, though without notable success. The "Wow Signal" is regarded as being an exception. It was a signal picked up by a telescope at an American university in 1977 and appeared to have all the right characteristics to have originated from an intelligent species. The fact that no signal was ever received from the same area of the sky again led to the event being regarded as a coincidence or a misinterpretation. However, attempts to communicate and make ourselves known through signals sent to space are now handled with caution. The opinion that this may bring a threat to mankind's existence is not as abstract as it has been presented in many science fiction movies, and scientists as well as astronomers are reluctant to pursue active signalling. It should also be considered that several conditions would need to be present in order for success to occur. Firstly, the extra-terrestrial species would need to have similar technological facilities to ours. Secondly, they would want to make themselves become known, which may not be the case. Thirdly, and most importantly though, they would need to exist in the same era as us, which, considering the large time spans of the universe, is quite unlikely.
Due to technological restrictions, the search for extra-terrestrial life has, for the time being, been limited to our own and some parts of nearby solar systems. Evidence of water vapour and ozone in the atmosphere of another planet are good conditions for most forms of life to exist and are therefore key elements that scientists try to research and identify in order to describe a planet as inhabitable. Even though some people argue that the conditions humans need to survive should not necessarily be the same for other forms of life, it is logical to conclude that these conditions are likely to be needed by another race, as the universe uses a similar chemistry. However, due to the fact that the development from one-celled organisms to several-celled ones is very unlikely and the emergence of intelligence is even more unlikely, many renowned scientists are now less optimistic and are convinced that, at present, we are the only intelligent species in this galaxy.
The new and unknown has always fascinated us, and this is why scientists, astronomers and organisations like the SETI refuse to give up the search. The chances of success are difficult to estimate and probably low, but if no attempts are made, the chance of a discovery is zero.
Questions 28 - 35
Complete the notes below.
Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 28 - 35 on your answer sheet.
The History and Role of Mars in the Search for Life
* The chances of finding alien life forms has influenced (28) and how societies have developed their way of life.
* In 1609, Galileo Galilei's early use of a primitive telescope led to his discovery of Mars.
* It became questionable whether Earth is the centre of the universe - rejected as being an optical illusion.
* The creation of a map of Mars' surface with what one astronomer thought were (29) brought up the idea of a civilisation on Mars.
* NASA's Mariner spacecraft finally proved that Mars was (30) .
* Mars is still a common subject when discussing alien life.
Recent Discoveries on Mars
* A certain type of nitrogen used to make amino acids and microbes has been found in mudstone (31) drilled by the Mars-rover.
* The discovery has led to conclusions of ancient lakes and streams on Mars.
* Not the type of extra-terrestrial being usually imagined.
Research Organisations and Signalling
* The search for intelligent life in outer space is still regarded as (32) .
* The possibility of other forms of life is not impossible, but the great (33) make communication difficult.
* Radio messages and light impulses have been used in the past.
* In the near future, (34) will probably be used, as they will have a better (35) .