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Life on Titan: A Fantasy with Potential.

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn June 7, 2010 at 3:48AM

Life on Titan: A Fantasy with Potential.

I'll always have a soft spot for "Contact," Robert Zemeckis's uneven sci-fi tear-jerker where Jodie Foster plays a passionate scientist eventually sent to meet our comrades in another galaxy. I devoured Carl Sagan's source novel, too, because both versions of the story use hard science (or at least the illusion of hard science) to ground the idea of alien life in the real world. I was equally intrigued by Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" for a similar reason: These movies position extraterrestrial beings as complex entities on some level that lies beyond human understanding, which sounds about right. We should refocus our collective obsession from flying saucers to the broader prospects of discovering any other life, period. It would be a poetic find even if it was just bacteria.

"They should've sent a poet."

I'm personally excited by the very notion of alien life, whether or not it thinks like we do. So I was reasonably giddy when I came across this story yesterday revealing strong evidence of organic activity on Titan, Saturn's Earth-like moon. I've been obsessed with this methane-filled rock ever since I read Kurt Vonnegut's early masterpiece, "The Sirens of Titan," and became an even greater Titan geek when the Cassini-Huygens mission first launched a decade ago. The whole thing makes me feel like I'm rooting for the underdog: Although Titan has long been considered Earth-like in its chemical construction, the little guy never built a sizable reputation in the sci-fi world, a la Mars. But Titan deserves better, and if it turns out something organic is really cooking out there, maybe the long-overdue recognition will begin. A "Sirens of Titan" movie, perhaps? Please?

This article is related to: Pop Culture