Often I get my inspiration to write science fiction stories from articles I read in popular science publications. Last week I devoured the latest issue of Cosmos Magazine, Issue 32, which is a SETI special with all kinds of cool articles on alien life. Now my head is full of ideas on what to write next.
One article in particular, "Alien Safari" by Lewis Dartnell discussees what extra-terrestial life could be like on other planets. Two examples that he comes up with inspire the imagination: (1) plants that produce hydrogen filled bladders so they can float in the atmosphere to capture sunlight while vines tether them to their roots, and (2) worlds with really heavy gravity, the atmosphere becomes dense enough so that aliens the size of elephants could actually fly. Then Dartnell goes on to suggest that if they have six limbs, they might adopt biplane configured wings.
Of course reading all this, and what I'm learning about extrasolar planets astronomers are finding every day, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Earth-like worlds are pretty rare, especially Earth-like worlds that can remain stable enough for complex life to evolve. Did you know that if Jupiter and Saturn were just a little bit bigger, their gravity would have consumed all the other planets in the solar system by now. But if Jupiter wasn't as big as it is to suck in passing space rocks, Earth would be bombarded by comets and meteorites at such a rate no life could evolve much past the primordial soup phase. Jupiter is just right. Still, I'm thinking life is everywhere in the universe, and probably not to dissimilar to what we have on Earth. On our world it seems to survive everywhere there is liquid water.
As for intelligent life I'm convinced it's out there, but it's likely to be such a rare event that any intelligence life is too far away to contact, in both space and time. I'm suggesting other galaxies, which are millions of light-years away.
Getting back to what I started discussing, Cosmos Magazine, it is also great for its fiction. I can't say I've read all the stories they've published in the magazine or online, but generally I like most that I do read.