Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The Brain Players of Titan
Chemosynthesis. The word would have sounded so foreign to me, when I was younger. Then I would’ve jumped to the conclusion that some science fiction writer had invented the term to describe something that was happening on another planet (cue envious glare at that science fiction writer), but of course, chemosynthesis supports a whole ecosystem right here on earth. At the mid-ocean ridges, it’s how most life forms survive.
So that got me thinking, and not for the first time, about what might be under the ice on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Then I remembered that we found the potential for (some) even photosynthetic microbes on Saturn’s moon, Titan. And that got me thinking, if an intelligent creature from Titan and an intelligent creature from Europa were to breed, wouldn’t that create the world’s first multiplanetary citizen?
I have to think that Titanoids (as I would call them), would be more likely to come up with space travel than Europanids (TM, patent pending). Therefore, we can assume the offspring would be born on Europa, unless of course the gestation period allowed them to endure the trip back to Titan. And I don’t know how I got to it, but the next thought in my head was the Titanoids discovering a Europanid species of crab that was smarter than them, and then bringing that species to the brink of extinction out of jealousy or sheer hubris. Save the dolphins? I guess?
It's established wisdom that humanity is the most intelligent thing in the solar system, but the forms of intelligence even within our own species are so varied that I’m left to wonder if perhaps our brains, our technology, and even our art and music aren’t just temporary evolutionary flukes soon to be specialized into something more useful or sustainable. I wonder if we might just look like giant, mammalian, vertebrate ants and bees someday. Then I wonder if that would really be a bad thing. Of course, ants do more with a small brain than many much larger-brained species can do, which displays a certain kind of pre-programmed “intelligence”. Maybe that’s just one of the forms our evolutionary descendants will take. I refuse to believe that we’ve somehow outwitted Natural Selection, or even slowed it down more than a paper dam slows down a river. Then I’m back to Titan, and the Methane rivers and lakes we were once so sure weren’t really there. Maybe even the absence of life on Titan has a bigger brain than us. Maybe I’ll change my mind after the election. “You would,” I chide myself.
[this has been an introduction to B. Radom’s Universe, where I come to think about science as hard as I can. Thank you for reading.]