Is Mankind Alone in the Universe?

According to the dominant theory among biologists, life originated on our planet when peculiar combinations of chemicals—known to form spontaneously under the proper circumstances—came together in just the right way to form cells; from these cells, the theory holds, all subsequent life evolved. Astronomers, writes Ethan Siegel, have meanwhile concluded that “there are there are nearly 1022 potentially habitable, Earth-like planets containing the right conditions and ingredients for life.” It would therefore stand to reason that not only did life evolve on some of these, but on some it evolved into an intelligent form capable of technological advancement. Where, then, are these aliens?

While many scientists are optimistic that it may be easy to create a simplified form of life, we’ve never successfully done so, nor have we witnessed it happening. We have yet to detect any life-form that didn’t originate on Earth. And as far back as we’re capable of tracing it, all life on Earth goes back to a single, universal common ancestor. Life might be common in the universe, but until we detect a second example where life arose from non-life, we cannot know. . . .

When we ask the big question—“Where is everybody?”—it’s worth keeping a great many possibilities in mind. Aliens might be plentiful, but perhaps we’re not listening properly. Aliens might be plentiful, but they might self-destruct too quickly to maintain a technologically advanced state. Aliens might be plentiful, but they may choose to remain isolated. Aliens might be plentiful, but they might purposely choose to exclude Earth and its inhabitants from their communications. Aliens might be plentiful, but the problems of interstellar transmission or travel might be too difficult to overcome.

But there’s another valid possibility that we must keep in mind as well: aliens may not be there at all. The probability of the vital leaps [necessary to produce life, let alone advanced civilizations] is enormously uncertain. If even one of these three steps is too cosmically improbable, it may well be that in all the universe, there’s only us.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Science, Space exploration

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism