The development of an artificial intelligence (AI) program capable of detecting alien life in physical samples is a significant breakthrough in astrobiology and scientific research.
The AI program in question has been trained using a diverse range of materials, including living cells, fossils, meteorites, and lab-made chemicals.
Its primary function is to differentiate between samples of biological and non-biological origin, achieving an impressive accuracy rate of ninety percent. However, what makes this AI truly intriguing is the mystery surrounding its inner workings, reported Live Science.
The scientists behind this AI program that could detect alien life have indicated that its application could be put into use almost immediately.
One of its potential applications is the examination of Martian rocks collected by the Curiosity rover. It could rapidly analyze data to search for signs of life on Mars. Additionally, this AI tool might shed light on the origins of enigmatic and ancient rocks discovered here on Earth.
Mars captured by NASA's Curiosity Rover pic.twitter.com/OwFUw0Caxz
— Ocean of Science (@OceanofScience) September 23, 2023
These findings were made public on September 25th, when the research team published their results in the scientific journal PNAS.
As stated by study co-lead author Robert Hazen, an astrobiologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., these findings open up the possibility of identifying life forms from other planets or other biospheres even if they are fundamentally different from the life forms we are familiar with on Earth.
Identify alien biochemistry as well as Earth life
To put it in simpler terms, this method has the potential of identifying not only the biochemistries associated with life on Earth but also those that might be entirely different from alien worlds, shared Hazen.
This is a significant development because it is relatively straightforward to identify the molecular biomarkers typically associated with Earth’s life, such as DNA and amino acids. However, it is not safe to assume that alien life, if it exists, will utilize the same building blocks, Hazen further explained.
Scientists previously demonstrated that by combining chemicals under conditions similar to the ancient seas of our planet, they can produce organic molecules such as amino acids. Amino acids are crucial components for building proteins, which play a fundamental role in life as we know it.
Did life ever exist on Mars? How did it evolve?#MarsSampleReturn could be transformative for the science community by enabling generations of scientists to study Mars rocks in labs on Earth and provide answers to these centuries-old questions. pic.twitter.com/ZZx8ZHkEqn
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) September 20, 2023
Furthermore, researchers have discovered evidence of these essential building blocks not only on Earth but also on celestial objects such as meteors and even distant asteroids, according to Live Science.
When it comes to the search for life beyond Earth, one of the fundamental challenges is distinguishing between substances that have a biological origin and those that might have formed through random chemical processes in the vastness of space.
The difficulty lies in the fact that organic molecules, which are key indicators of life, tend to break down or degrade over time. This is a complex issue that humans alone find challenging to resolve. To overcome this challenge, researchers took on the task of developing a machine-learning algorithm.