Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

There is a tremendous amount of other life in the universe.

The universe is encrusted, moldy, infested, slushy, teeming, and stuffed with life. The amount of life in the universe is staggering. Much as the earth is populated with a bewildering array of lifeforms developed to take up refuge and thrive in the most bizarre of niches, so too does life perform on other planets.

The segmented iceworms who would evaporate from the touch of a human hand on far-away iceballs. The gas-giant sparrow clusters and tectonic-plate-sized manta rays that lurk deeper. Algae that lives under constantly shifting volcanic plates. Spores that float dormant and content in vast reef schools through space. Entire asteroids of silicate life that steer themselves by committee like herds of sheep.

There are no sets of temperatures, gas composition, gravity, radiation or light that completely precludes life. Anywhere in the galaxy. We are engulfed and surrounded by it.

The one thing that all life besides us has in common is this. It speaks no language and has no conscious thought. It knows fear, the urge to reproduce, affection, and the thousand other instinctual gifts that any natural life is heir to but it does not think. It does not reason. It does not question. It has no sense of self or sense of God. It merely lives.

Our television programs that spew out into the universe have contacted over five hundred million species of aliens. But those ideas and tv scripts have hit other life forms the way that sunlight hits a fox.

Giant centipedes with massive, radio-receiving antlers get our shows and shake their heads at the noise and paw the ground. Old reruns of Three’s Company tumble through the photo-voltaic flake crystal storms of fibre-optic minnows on dark blue ammonia shores, lighting them up in waves of colour that play havoc with their mating rituals. Broadcasts of old black and white films cause entire herds of black spheres on tiny moons near a distant planet to stop rolling, all sense of direction disrupted. Saturday Night Live reruns from the early eighties are cutting tiger-stripe swathes through the flimsiest space-webs of solar sail creatures astronomical units wide drifting in space. Reality television is causing one planet’s dominant predators to enter hibernation early, triggering a continent-wide shift in the ecosystem.

We are contacting, inundating, and even harming millions of races daily. All to no effect other than the casual ebb and flow of natural selection. The universe is crowded.

But we are alone.

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