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Searching for Life, Mindful of Lyfe’s Possibilities

Wong, Michael L. and Bartlett, Stuart and Chen, Sihe and Tierney, Louisa (2022) Searching for Life, Mindful of Lyfe’s Possibilities. Life, 12 (6). Art. No. 783. ISSN 2075-1729. PMCID PMC9225093. doi:10.3390/life12060783.

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We are embarking on a new age of astrobiology, one in which numerous interplanetary missions and telescopes will be designed, built, and launched with the explicit goal of finding evidence for life beyond Earth. Such a profound aim warrants caution and responsibility when interpreting and disseminating results. Scientists must take care not to overstate (or over-imply) confidence in life detection when evidence is lacking, or only incremental advances have been made. Recently, there has been a call for the community to create standards of evidence for the detection and reporting of biosignatures. In this perspective, we wish to highlight a critical but often understated element to the discussion of biosignatures: Life detection studies are deeply entwined with and rely upon our (often preconceived) notions of what life is, the origins of life, and habitability. Where biosignatures are concerned, these three highly related questions are frequently relegated to a low priority, assumed to be already solved or irrelevant to the question of life detection. Therefore, our aim is to bring to the fore how these other major astrobiological frontiers are central to searching for life elsewhere and encourage astrobiologists to embrace the reality that all of these science questions are interrelated and must be furthered together rather than separately. Finally, in an effort to be more inclusive of life as we do not know it, we propose tentative criteria for a more general and expansive characterization of habitability that we call genesity.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Wong, Michael L.0000-0001-8212-3036
Bartlett, Stuart0000-0001-5680-476X
Additional Information:© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Received: 16 April 2022 / Revised: 3 May 2022 / Accepted: 18 May 2022 / Published: 25 May 2022. (This article belongs to the Special Issue Frontiers of Astrobiology, Volume II). We gratefully acknowledge stimulating conversations with many colleagues, including but not limited to: Robert M. Hazen, Carol Cleland, Peter Gao, Anjali Piette, the Carnegie Science “Missing Law” study group, the Caltech “Astrobiothermoevoinfo” reading group, and the University of Washington Astrobiology “MassExdrinktion” reading group. Finally, we thank our two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and questions that strengthened our ideas and clarified their presentation in our manuscript. MLW gratefully acknowledges support from the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Carnegie Fellowship. Author Contributions. Conceptualization, M.L.W., S.B., S.C. and L.T.; writing—original draft preparation, M.L.W., S.B., S.C. and L.T.; writing—review and editing, M.L.W., S.B., S.C. and L.T.; visualization, M.L.W.; supervision, M.L.W. and S.B.; project administration, M.L.W. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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Carnegie Institution of WashingtonUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:habitability; origin of life; astrobiology; biosignatures; genesity; lyfe
Issue or Number:6
PubMed Central ID:PMC9225093
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220526-391477000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Wong, Michael L., Stuart Bartlett, Sihe Chen, and Louisa Tierney. 2022. "Searching for Life, Mindful of Lyfe’s Possibilities" Life 12, no. 6: 783.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114954
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:31 May 2022 17:10
Last Modified:28 Jun 2022 21:20

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