a lone figure walks through a nuclear Armageddon a lone figure walks through a nuclear Armageddon It wouldn't be an apocalypse without a few rugged survivors, would it? (Photo: Getmilitaryphotos / Shutterstock)

New Harvard theory: Aliens could survive apocalypses

Humans may not last through crazy space events, but a new study suggests extraterrestrials could handle them.

After reading this headline, you might be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute, mysterious Internet writer. How could anyone figure out anything specific about aliens if we haven't actually ever found an alien?"

I, too, shared your concerns, wise reader. But as it turns out, scientists love making stuff up about aliens with nothing but a few astronomy facts, some mathematical analysis and a whole lot of spunk. For instance, Harvard scientists think aliens may have star-powered spaceships.

Following in these sci-fi footsteps, a group of astronomers from Harvard University and Oxford University, including Israeli astronomer Avi Loeb, tried to figure out if theoretical aliens could survive an end-of-the-world-style space catastrophe.

A scene from the 'Star Wars VR X-Wing Mission' from Electronic Arts Battlefront series. A scene from the 'Star Wars VR X-Wing Mission' from Electronic Arts Battlefront series. We like to think alien spaceships look like this. (Photo: EA Sports)

Why did they do this? Well, sometimes, people think that aliens couldn't possibly survive on anything but a planet that's pretty much exactly like Earth. We're alive after all, and we're on Earth. We couldn't survive on a planet with crazy high or low temperatures or boiling oceans. But aliens might be different (well, almost certainly would be different). So the scientists ran a study to see if any life on Earth could survive if supernovae hit, gamma-ray bursts fried us, large asteroids pummeled us or the oceans boiled.

It's actually more than a wacky idea: when astronomers look for life on other planets, they have to decide which planets are likely to have life in the first place. So figuring out what kinds of conditions could sustain life – and what conditions would eradicate life – is pretty important if we ever want to find aliens. If we discover an Earth-like planet whose oceans have boiled, should we bother looking for life, or just assume that any life that could have existed is long gone?

The scientists came to a pretty cool conclusion: Some organisms on Earth would survive these events, including a tiny, super resilient animal called the tardigrade water bear, a creature that's either adorable or creepy, we just can't decide.

3D rendering of a tardigrade water bearAin't he cute, in a sci-fi-villain-in-disguise kind of way? (Photo: 3dstock/Shutterstock)

"Events which could lead to life being completely eradicated are rare," write the study's authors. I mean, we would be goners, but tiny water bears would still be around to NOT tell our story.

If waters bears could handle such crazy space dramas, then surely some aliens could too. And that's kind of comforting, right?


Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Space