This stuff is so exciting! I'm one of those people who firmly believes that, for the survival of the species, we need to be looking at expanding. We need to be moving this direction at a rate much quicker than we currently are. To think there are so many theoretically habitable planets "near by" is exciting, now we just need to figure out the whole... "how do we get there?" issue.
I agree. I've been following this planetary discovery from the start. In large part, because it seemed inconceivable to me that our solar system could be the only one with planets orbiting around its sun.
Perhaps 25 or more years ago now, or shortly before the first non-solar-system planet was discovered, I debated this very point with someone. Although he claimed not to have religious motives, he said "there's no proof of other planets," and concluded therefore that the likelihood was very slim.
Which seems absurd, right? There would be no proof if you didn't have instruments that could detect them. That's a given! But if our sun has planets, how likely is it to be the only sun in 100 billion just in our galaxy alone? I asked him, if you see a coin on the beach under you, do you conclude that most likely, you've found the only coin on all the beaches of the world? Or do you assume that most likely, there are coins hiding on every other beach as well?
Now that we have some rudimentary instruments, lo and behold the most likely truths are being revealed. Not only are there a whole slew of other planets around, but as also might be expected, many of them are roughly in the same size and temperature range as Earth, capable of supporting liquid water, and consequently carbon-based life.
"To think there are so many theoretically habitable planets 'near by' is exciting, now we just need to figure out the whole... 'how do we get there?' issue.
Indeed. We need to discover how to bypass those folds in space, to effectively go faster than the speed of light, without violating any physical laws. Otherwise, even the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, would take amazingly long to reach. Using Voyager's speed, I mean the real one and not the Start Trek one, I think it's something like 17,000 years. Even a super long shot for generation travel, with no oppostunity for resupply.
Keeping in mind that humans have been on this planet for only 40,000 years, out of its 4.5 billion year life, this means that with current technology, it takes almost twice as long as humans have been around, just to reach the CLOSEST other star system.
But the known age of the universe is 13.8 billion years, or 3.1 times longer than the age of Earth. So there's always a potential for some other advanced form of life to be ahead of enough to have beaten this speed barrier somehow.
@Caleb: I'm one of those people who firmly believes that, for the survival of the species, we need to be looking at expanding.
I am 100% with you -- we currently have all of our eggs in one basket (Earth) -- when you think of all the people who have struggled through life to keep the next generation going, it woudl be such a shame to loose it all due to a mega-disaster -- we need outposts on the moon and Mars and then... (I'm channelling Robert Heinlein here :-)
@Caleb, :-) I'm one of those that believes that in the next few million years there is no reason to leave earth if we don't continue to trash it. We've gone from sustainable to unsustainable in around 100 years, and now we're expected to squeeze what little bit of life is left in this planet so that we can spend 36,000 years getting to the next habitable planet only so we can render that uninhabitable within 100 years too. Our problems aren't solved by running away, a lot of the self disipline needed for a reasonable contingent to survive 36000 years in space without self destructing are the same issues we need to survive here for the maybe 1-2 million years we have if we attain that self disipline.
That's not to say that I t think the mind games neeeded study and understand our environment in this manner are misplaced, only that sinking the ship and then leaving it like rats deserting a sinking ship is not the answer.
In actual fact the greenest "modern" life to which everybody on earth should be entitled would need a planet with 2.5 to 3.5 times the resources that we currently.
It's extremely evident that we already have a situation where we have to accept that either 2/3 of the world population has to live well below the poverty line or the world population has to be reduced to a 1/3 of its current level.
While that is what is projected to happen over the next 150 years naturally, this isn't fast enough to prevent a global problem where we all suffer immeasurably. I fear we will be all at eachother's throats for a litre of water or a scrap of food long before enough of us have been moved "elsewhere"
The idea of expanding to other planets I think hides the fact that to move 2/3 of 10 billion people elsewhere will likely consume so much of our resources as to leave enough for much less than the 1/3 that is currently sustainable.
Seems to me that the "unsustainable" will become more evident as the populations of the "have-nots" start to approach the standard of living of the "haves." Just two countries today, China and India, account for 1/3 of the population of this planet. And both of them, but especially China, are going through big changes. So quite honestly, this is very much out of the control of the US and its closest allies, and all of our western "green" rhetoric. Attempting to lead by example is apparently very hard to do, eh?
Whatever the case may be, the closest star system appears to have no life-sustaining planets. According to the article, the closest solar system with life sustaining planets might be 12 light-years away. Still "close," in astronomic terms, even though it would take around 225,000 years to reach, with current technology. So, guys, we had better make this one planet work for us all.
@Bert I'm glad I'm not alone in understanding the magnitude of the problems. I've always enjoyed Star Trek and its progeny and love the knowledge that the various space programs have given us, but when you do the math you become aware what resources are needed to make all of these things come true it becomes quite a wake up call, and yes western countries (because they don't fight daily for survival) have ahd the time to work out what needs to be done but at the end of the day there is simply no global political will. Check this video out for some views on what we are up against:
@Etmax: ...to move 2/3 of 10 billion people elsewhere will likely consume so much of our resources as to leave enough for much less than the 1/3 that is currently sustainable.
Unless we develop some amazing technology like the "Gates" in Robert Heinlein's "Tunnel in the Sky," there's no chance of reducing the population by exporting people to other planets.
The thing is that the human race is vunerable if all our eggs are in one basket (on one planet). After all of the folks (and other creature) who have lived and struggled and died for us to get where we are, it would be a shame to lose it all in a catastrophe -- it would be nice to know that the race wuld suvive -- and one wa yto increase the odds is to have colonys on other moons and planets and -- eventually solar systems...
Until not-so-long-ago, if you'd asked me if we were alone in the universe or if there was other intelligent life out thre, I would have replied "there is other intelligent life somewhere" ... but then I read Alone in the Universe by John Gribbin (click here to read my review).
If you get a chance, you should read Intelligent Life In The Universe by Carl Sagan & Russian astronomer I.S. Shklovskii. Written in 1966, long before Sagan was a celebrity, the material may seem a bit dated but is still fascinating. It covers a reasonably technical but readable discussion of cosmology, the evolution of stars and the elements of the periodic table within them, then proceeds in a step by step fashion, making very conservative judgements at each step, to make a calculated estimate of the number of advanced civilizations in our galaxy ("advanced" meaning substantially more advanced than our own) and concludes that the number -- just in our galaxy -- is between 50,000 and 1 million such civilizations, with an average separation distance of between a few hundred and about 1000 light years.
That's still an immense distance, not only for any conceivable physical visitation, but even for any meaningful electromagnetic communication -- unless of course the Star Trek warp field generator ever becomes possible :)
Suppose a nearby civilization was able to detect intelligent EM emissions from Earth (radio & TV, and I use the word "intelligent" loosely), and had an interest in responding. Those transmissions have only been going on for the last 100 years, so they most likely wouldn't even have received the oldest signals from Earth yet.
@Max...I'd question your use of the word "other" in the above....makes more sense without it. Present company excepted, of course, but the human race as a whole does not display too many signs of intelligence........