MEET THE WATER BEAR, A SMALL CASE FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE (A to-think-about-article) Kees Deckers March 2014 The Norm Life outside of Earth is impossible. That is still the answer many humans will give when asked. When asked why it is impossible, many,  especially in the so-called western civilisation, will use scientific ideas and theories as their proof. They will say that exactly the right conditions  are needed. And these only exist on Earth. What these right conditions are? Liquid water. And therefore also a planet which is not too hot nor  too cold. The right kind of atmosphere, amongst others as protection against radiation from outer space. And more. These exactly-the-right-  conditions are mostly collected under the heading: The Goldilock Zone.  But scientists, like most humans, tend to think only or at least mostly from themselves, from what they as humans need and what they as  humans must avoid to live and survive. They use themselves as the norm, or better the normal distribution.  Figure 1. - The Human Norm(al Distribution)  Some humans and some animals and plants may deviate a bit from this Human Norm(al Distribution), but life straying too far from this  midpoint or mean is impossible, is the overall theory, also based on male god beliefs. But is it? Or is it time humans, and scientists among  them, stop thinking, feeling and acting so self-centered? Is it time to stop centering all our ideas and theories on the Human Norm(al  Distribution)? Lovers of extremes Today many scientists have discovered that even on Earth there exist lifeforms, which live far from the human norm. They are called  extremophiles or lovers of extremes. The English Wikipedia mentions in an article about them amongst others the following:  Extremophile  An extremophile (from Latin extremus meaning "extreme" and Greek philiā (...) meaning "love") is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme  conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth. In contrast, organisms that live in more moderate environments may be termed mesophiles or neutrophiles....  There are many classes of extremophiles that range all around the globe, each corresponding to the way its environmental niche differs from mesophilic conditions....  Astrobiology is the field concerned with forming theories, such as panspermia, about the distribution, nature, and future of life in the universe. In it, microbial ecologists,  astronomers, planetary scientists, geochemists, philosophers, and explorers cooperate constructively to guide the search for life on other planets. Astrobiologists are  particularly interested in studying extremophiles, as many organisms of this type are capable of surviving in environments similar to those known to exist on other planets.  For example, Mars may have regions in its deep subsurface permafrost that could harbor endolith communities. The subsurface water ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa may  harbor life, especially at hypothesized hydrothermal vents at the ocean floor.  Internet reference (09-03-14):  But when we look at life from the point of view of such an extremophile, it are humans and other animal and plant forms which are the  extremophiles, living between very narrow boundaries in very narrow environmental niches and this extremophile of course is the norm, the  midpoint and the mean.  The Wikipedia article mentions already 18 classes of extremophiles discovered on our planet. Most of them are microbes. But some are much  larger. The website "Extraordinary Animals" tells us for instance about one such small lifeform.  The Water Bear Meet the Tardigrade or Water Bear, an animal almost never larger than 1,5 millimeters:  Figures 2. and 3. (Figure 3. is artificially coloured) - Water Bears (one kind of extremophile) They can survive temperatures ranging from 150°C to -272°C. They can go a decade without water. They can live virtually anywhere you can think of... ... tardigrades are most famous for their near indestructibility. They are so hardy, in fact, that scientists have performed a multitude of tests and experiments to see just  what these animals can withstand. We now know that in addition to the temperature extremes mentioned above, tardigrades can handle 570,000 rads of x-ray radiation (a  mere 2,000 rads would quite easily kill a human); they can withstand 6,000 atmospheric pressures, which is six times the pressure of the water in the deepest ocean abyss;  they can be submerged in pure alcohol; and they can even survive being placed in liquid helium for a week.  Internet reference (01-03-14):  So the Water Bears beat humans in many ways with regard to the range of environments they can survive in. Like environments with  temperatures up to 150 degrees Celsius and down to -272 degrees Celsius and environments with pressures up to 6,000 atmosphere. Just questions Life forms like the Water Bear on our own planet raise all kinds of intriguing questions. Like: Why do not all life forms on Earth keep to the  conditions we humans have declared to be the exactly right and only ones for life to exist at all? Why should such extraordinary life develop on  our planet at all? If Water Bears did develop right here, on Earth, then what is the reason they developed capabilities to live and survive  between such far reaching environmental boundaries? Does that make sense? Why does a life form develop which can survive ten years  without water, while there clearly is enough liquid water on Earth to survive in? And why this ability to survive such differences in temperature,  while most of our planet on the surface has an average temperature of around 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Celsius is about the highest and  -90 degrees Celsius is about the lowest)? Or did they maybe develop in a period of time the conditions on Earth were a lot more extreme, like  we find on planets within and outside of our Solar System?  ExtraTerrestrial other life and ExtraTerrestrial human life Two other sets of intriguing questions pop up as well. The first set is about ExtraTerrestrial other life: If these life forms can survive in such  environments and circumstances for long periods of time, then why would they not develop on other planets with these conditions too? On  Mars for instance, liquid water does exist. Maybe not in abundance and maybe for years at a time not as a liquid. But if every few years this  water is liquid, may it be enough for Water Bears to live and thrive on this planet of our Solar System? And why should they not develop and  thrive on other planets, with similar and more moderate conditions, throughout our Universe? Could it be Water Bears have come from outside  of Earth at one point in time, and being able to survive in in the eyes of humans such harsh conditions, found our Earth environment a mainly  moderate and pleasurable one to live in and thrive on? Briefly stated, how many different normal distributions for life are possible out there  next to that of human on our planet? How many life forms have their own Goldilock Zone, based on their own normal distribution? Is there  even a Goldilock Zone needed for life to develop and thrive?  And the second set is about ExtraTerrestrial human life: What can human learn from the so-called extremophiles like the Water Bear about  living and surviving in almost completely other environments than our Human Norm(al Distribution) environment? How can human expand her  environmental boundaries beyond the norm? What can she learn from these small animals on how to protect at least her own colonial  environments on other planets against for instance high levels of radiation and extreme temperature ranges?  Conclusion In short, as long as we humans think the conditions for our own life are the mean and the midpoint, the Norm(al Distribution) for all  possibilities of life, we are narrowing our view to a small box of reality, to a small range of what is possibly really there. And we keep  narrowing our own possibilities of what we may achieve ourselves in the future, like living under extreme conditions on other planets. Luckily  for us, there exist on our own planet so-called extremophiles, which point us the way out of this narrowminded view and this closed off small  box of reality. They point us the way to not only possible ExtraTerrestrial other life throughout the Universe, but also how we may ourselves  exist as ExtraTerrestrial life outside our own planet.    Up