Water: The Holy Grail of Universal Life?

“Liquid water is the Holy Grail for scientists hunting for life beyond Earth. All life on this planet relies on liquid water, and experts think extraterrestrials likely do, too. And Mars, as the planet next in line after Earth from the sun, is one of the top potential habitats for ET”. MSNBC

Mars has fascinated humans for a very long time. The height of excitement about Mars occurred in the late 1800s.

In 1895 Percival Lowell published the book MARS where he declared that intricate canals were obvious in his observation from his observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Intricate, designed canals implied intelligent life, perhaps more advanced than human civilization on the verge of the 20th century.

However, to all appearances Mars was a dead planet wrapped in planetary dust storms and a hostile environment.  Lowell believed the “canals” were the remains of a vast civilization which had died off centuries before because of some catastrophic event in the remote past.

Lowell built his canal theory on the work of two Italians—Pietro Secchi and Giovanni Schiaparelli.  However, the Italian word canali which means channels was mistranslated into English as canals.

In 1898 H.G. Wells published his novel War of the Worlds.  England is invaded by Martians looking for a fresh world to inhabit since Mars was a dying orb. 

This scientific romance novel covered the whole gamut of human civilization, human arrogance, scientific advancement, Darwinism, emotions, religion and fears.  If Great Britain, the ruling superpower of the day, could be so easily subdued by misshapen bodies with over-developed brain cells, what did the future hold for the rest of mankind?

Going back to the main topic of water, is water the holy grail of life in the universe? For our planet traversing the cosmos the answer is definitely yes.  However, is our scientific assumption correct for worlds out there? 

Of course we are limited by our confinement on this earth.  Our few space probes are valuable tools, but in essence the reality is that we do not know what other life forms may exist in the cosmos and what their basic building blocks are.

In the classic Star Trek episode Devil in the Dark Kirk, Spock and McCoy debate the existence of life which is not carbon based.  In this case the life form is silicon based.  It was a strange looking 60’s special-effect oddity.  Nevertheless, Star Trek did deal with the possibilities of non-carbon-based life forms.

This concept was showcased in the first motion picture.  Kirk and company are told point blank by V’ger that “carbon units are not true life forms”.  V’ger is coming to earth to rid the planet of these pesky carbon units.

Is it human arrogance to believe that life must be like us out there?  The cosmos has no better designed creatures? Without water there is no possibility of life?  No carbon, no life?

One certainty exists in the cosmic ocean.  Humans are a young species standing on the shores of eternity.  What may be up and out there is a mystery which may be a surprise to us.

Over the eons young species have indulged their arrogance.  Perhaps, it is a stage before maturity and wisdom can embrace the knowledge of cosmic truth.

G. D. Williams       © 2011



Space Today


Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds October 30, 1938 Mercury Theater


Star Trek: Devil In the Dark Overview


Star Trek: V’ger