The idea that there could be an Earth-like planet out there somewhere, on which life evolved much like Earth, but never experienced the cataclysmic extinction event that brought the downfall of dinosaurs and the rise of the mammals, isn’t a new idea in science fiction, but it is interesting to see such speculation in scientific journals.
The Journal of the American Chemistry Society sent out a press release on just this very subject the other day, which I should point out is highly speculative and is in no way saying that anyone’s discovered an exoplanet filled with giant dinosaurs with laser guns strapped to their heads, living in giant dinosaur high rises.
The opening of the press release reads:
New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs - monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans - may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. “We would be better off not meeting them,” concludes the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
In fact, the majority of “Evidence for the Likely Origin of Homochirality in Amino Acids, Sugars, and Nucleosides on Prebiotic Earth,” written by Dr. Ronald Breslow, concerns itself not with hostile aliens at all, but, rather, with the shape (“orientation”) of molecules that form the building blocks of life, like amino acids, sugars, and the genetic materials DNA and RNA.
Science time: These molecules can exist in one of two orientations that mirror one another in the same way left and right hands do. With the exception of a few bacteria, amino acids in all of life on Earth are oriented to the left. Most sugars are oriented to the right. These constraints of shape were crucial to the development of life, as we know it, on Earth, but it is unknown why they developed this way. Breslow’s theory involves meteorites. Nerd stuff.
The spaceosaur twist comes at the paper’s conclusion, when Dr. Breslow speculates that there might, in fact, be life forms that developed (on other, far-flung planets) from right-oriented amino acids and left-oriented sugars – in other words, life originating from terrestrial molecules shaped in the opposite way of Earth’s.
This is where things get crazy. This is where the American Chemical Society press team ran wild.
“Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth. We would be better off not meeting them.”