Life on Earth Is a Sketchy Guide to an Alien Civilization
Any assumptions about properties like intelligence or agency that we make based on what we currently know about life on Earth are on exceedingly shaky ground.Photograph by European Southern Observatory (ESO) / Wikicommons You might imagine that in the midst of a global pandemic and all of its social and economic fallout that our minds […]
Why Cassini Is Ending Its Life with a Kamikaze Plunge
This Friday, NASA’s Cassini probe will run out of fuel and take pictures as it plummets at 75,000 miles per hour through Saturn’s atmosphere. It won’t be crashing—the heat from friction will make Cassini immolate in the sky. Cassini has had a good run. Since arriving at Saturn in 2004, the probe has transmitted stunning […]
There’s Mysteriously Large Amounts of Methane on Mars
The mystery isn’t just that we see methane when we shouldn’t. It’s also that, in a sense, we see too much of it. If you want to detect life on another planet, look for biomarkers—spectroscopic signatures of chemicals that betray the activity of living things. And in fact we may have already found a biomarker. […]
Why Discovering Martians Could Be Disappointing
There are two kinds of extraterrestrial life with very different implications.
Will ET Drink Water?
The intricate compatibility of water and life on Earth may not extend to other planets.
How the Cold War Created Astrobiology
Life, death, and Sputnik.
What Earth Tells Us About Life, Intelligence & the Universe
Astrobiology, the study of life on other worlds, is one of the coolest sciences ever. From extremophile bacteria living miles underground and feeding off radioactivity to exoplanetary systems with bizarre head-spinning architectures, astrobiology includes some of the most amazing parts of the natural world. But for some hardened naysayers, Astrobiology’s glamour is tainted by that […]
The Best Way Yet to Talk to Aliens (If They’re Out There)
“None knows whence creation arose; And whether he has or has not made it; He who surveys it from the lofty skies. Only he knows—or perhaps not.” This is an edited snippet from a 3,500-year-old Vedic creation myth. I sent each of its 143 characters streaming on a beam of radio waves on June 21, […]
Open Your Mind to What an “Earth-Like” Planet Could Be
You are standing on a sandy plain lit only by the harsh, cold light of a blue-white spark flashing overhead in steady metronomic bursts. The pinprick of light almost seems like a distant star, but each flash raises a disturbing tingling sensation within you, suggesting the stroboscopic light source is somehow nearby, and must be […]
Carbon Fated: We’re Built This Way for a Reason
In each issue of Nautilus, we shine a spotlight on one “Ingenious” scientist whose work makes us reconsider our world and ourselves. The Ingenious for our first issue, “What Makes You So Special,” is Columbia University astrophysicist Caleb Scharf, who contributed an essay about our place in the universe and talked about his life and […]