Added 2 new A* pages:Hey, even more action today, how about that.|
Speaking of action (oh man was that slick or what?), Congress today passed a bill providing funding to NASA through 2013. According to the article, they're supposed to spend that on stuff like an extra-final Space Shuttle flight, supporting the ISS, helping commercial spaceflight development (since that's how they're supposed to get to the ISS after the final Space Shuttle flight, although since none of that exists yet they'll be using the ol' Russian Soyuz capsules), and developing a deep space rocket, in line with the Obama administration's road map of getting astronauts on an asteroid (the Moon has been dropped--too 1960's, I guess) by 2025, and to Mars by the 2030's.
Hm, I thought Mars was George W.'s idea, and we weren't going to do that anymore. I suppose the thought of Japan or Russia or China or Brazil or whoever beating us there was just too much to bear after all. And I wonder what astronauts will do on an asteroid that robots couldn't do? If it isn't drilling inside and making a long-term base--which I just bet it *isn't*--then I'm not sure what the point will be. But we'll be able to say HEY WE DID IT FIRST JUST LIKE THE MOON REMEMBER--unless of course we don't.
Another thing was that some bunch of scientists or whatnot released their exciting data about finding yet another planet around some other star somewhere that might have life on it. I'm not even going to link it because it's ridiculous. Oh okay fine. Now the excuse for getting excited about this particular chunk of rock is that it's in the dinky dwarf star's tiny habitable zone (since when did those start getting called "Goldilocks planets"? what an awful term), which means the temperature range *could* support liquid water. Which various over-enthusiastic psuedo-scientific hacks want to be the first to proclaim means alien life is there, 100% guaranteed.
Well, call me a pessimist. Our planet had things pretty cushy, and even with everything pretty much just perfect--as far as we understand it--it took like a billion years for single-celled stuff, another billion for multi-celled stuff, and another billion for animals of some kind--all of that long, long time being relatively undisturbed by super-deadly stuff, aside from a major asteroid impact or two. Hm and major meteors for a while at the beginning.
Now single-celled stuff, sure. That stuff is tough, and doesn't really take very long to generate, provided you have some hydrocarbons or whatever and maybe some lightning or something. You probably don't even need the planet to have *that* much water for it to happen.
But multi-celled? We're talking two-billion pretty peaceful years on a perfect planet to cook those up. Even if there are however many hundreds of billions of stars some folks like to think there might be in our galaxy with planets in the "habitable zone" as we understand it, how many have things just so? We know that there are so many factors on our planet where, just nudged a bit out of whack, there'd have been no chance for Earth's current types of complex life to develop. And even if you get all that stuff right, there's still the odd gigantic meteor just waiting to come along and wipe the entire surface of the planet out. Earth has probably had a couple nearly big enough to do that in the past three billion years or whatever, and we're kind of due for another one.
And how many of these planets are bathed in deadly radiation, disturbed by the gravitational pull of other nearby planets, roasted or frozen by fits and starts of their or other nearby stars, etc?
At any rate, the point is, we don't know. We don't have instruments yet that can detect just exactly how swell the climate and history of an extrasolar planet may be. Finding planets outside our solar system is the astronomical fad du jour, but it simply isn't a precise science yet, and the annoying thing about it is that until it gets significantly better, we're going to be bombarded by more and more "OMG look at this planet we probably just found that might have aliens" announcements by whoever's discovered what they hope is the latest Neo Earth. The dude who's all excited about this latest one (which is hardly "Earth-like" given that it's tidally locked, average temp well below freezing, hot side at 160 degrees, 3-4 times Earth's mass, orbits a dwarf star, and no clue if it actually has water or even an atmosphere at all) named it after his wife, for gosh sakes.
I'm sure the aliens will be just tickled.
So I'm putting my foot down: no more links to whatever the latest "Earth-like" utopia planet is. There's no point. There wouldn't be much point even if we had instruments that could detect the presence of liquid water and an atmosphere on them, but at least *then* the silly alien theories about it would have *some* basis in what we understand as biochemical fact, and then sure, start getting your space ship ready to try to land there in 20,000 years or something. I'll be the first to break out the party hats.
No, really, there's no point in getting excited about the prospect of life from other planets until we actually make contact with an alien species, or at least their signals, inadvertent or intentional. In which case, we're *probably* doomed. But maybe if we name them after somebody's wife, they'll be charmed.
Until then, don't bother me about it. =p