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Our expert voices conversation on "How to look for alien life."

Earth is our best guide as we look for new forms of life. Our own planet hosts life in amazing complexity, from single-celled organisms to humans.

Asteroids and comets delivered the amino acids that form proteins to Earth over 4 billion years ago. Based on what we know from the evolution of life thereafter, we are looking for a liquid, probably water. We start out searching for places where liquid water is stable, either in the past, as on the surface of Mars, or currently beneath the icy crust on Europa and Enceladus. We then look for life's building block molecules such as amino acids. It took several billion years for complex life to emerge on Earth, so in our solar system we search for microbes, or fossils of simple organisms like algae or bacteria, the earliest forms of life.

Outside of our solar system, the first step is confirming habitability by analyzing extrasolar planet atmospheres, looking for gases like carbon dioxide and methane that are associated with life here. To confirm life, we need to build large enough space-based telescopes to image extrasolar planets, hopefully only a few decades from now.

Given how quickly life evolved here on this planet after conditions had stabilized, I am optimistic that where we have similar conditions, we will find evidence of life β€” or past life. The hard part may be finding life and not realizing it, if the life forms are very different from those here on Earth.

The other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - Sports

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Senate Democrats demand answers on FBI's Kavanaugh probe

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Democrats are demanding that the FBI hand over "all records and communications" related to the FBI tip line set up to investigate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee in 2018.

Why it matters: The ask comes after the FBI revealed it received more than 4,500 tips about Kavanaugh when he was awaiting Senate confirmation amid sexual assault allegations. Only the most "relevant" of these tips were forwarded to the Trump White House.

Chip relief on the horizon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Good news: The worst of the chip supply crunch might be near.

The other side: Here's the bad news... CEOs say chips totally flowing like normal is still a ways out.