Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Wonderful Miracle of Earth

NASA has taken an interesting approach attempting to reawaken interest in space: Science Fiction. They commissioned an artist to create travel-agency-style posters for hypothetical trips to newly discovered planets outside our solar system: Kepler 186f, Kepler 16b, and HD 40307 g. The whole idea is fiction, of course, beyond the mere impossibility of an actual trip.

These planets are barely known. But the fascinating appeal to exoplanet “exploration” is the search for places where life, or even better we, could thrive. One (and only one) of these three planets meets a couple requirements to fit the bill. Kepler 186f is close in size to Earth and within the “habitable zone” of its star in its orbit. The problem?  The list of requirements that a planet must meet for life as we know it to thrive is already 68 known factors long and growing. If there were 10 billion trillion planets in the universe, the odds that one other would meet all the requirements to support complex life such as is found on Earth are smaller than 1 in 10 to the 1050th power, according to physicist Dr. Hugh Ross.

However, the approach seems to be the way to go. After all, interest in space was never higher than before we got out into it. Our imagination thrived with the possibilities of what we could find there. Once we started going, we learned a lot that improved life here on Earth, but what we found out there was so much more of a letdown. The science is important and valuable, but the adventure we find out there right now is not what sci-fi promised us. Life, with all of its wonder and capacity for creativity and imagination, is still only found in the very small, very rare, miraculous place we call home.

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