Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find! ~ Time Magazine
In the all the vastness of the Cosmos, we know of only one, exquisite, small blue planet rich with life – our own! WHAT IF IT’S THE ONLY ONE?? And what if we destroy it anyway? You could say, as the Joker’s doing here, “Here’s Your Sign!” Not Good! Cosmic Understatement, there!
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FEATURED in FANTASY & MYSTICAL THINGS
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(Inspired by “The Universe,” a series on the Science Channel. Hope you will enjoy this beautiful music while you’re here! The tour is great.)
Human civilization has only been here for a blink of an eye in Geologic Time but we, as a species, have not been kind to our beautiful home. It’s been said and rightly so, that “Civilization… wrecks the planet from seafloor to stratosphere” (Richard Bach). The natural balance of our planet – the very environment which fostered and encouraged Mankind’s development to start with – is on the brink of faltering on many fronts. We have altered its rythms, polluted its atmosphere, poisoned its water, interfered with climate, accelerated the extinction rate for thousands of species (some of which we’ll never even know about) — and quite possibly, our own. All of that is tragic on a Universal scale! But it’s doubly tragic, if the Earth, as some believe, is IT: the one and only planet of its type in all Infinity. In that event, our crimes are magnified to that extent (infinity)!
So what sort of Cosmos do we live in?
[a] A Star Trek Universe with widespread intelligence and many separate races, most of them humanoids like us —
[b] A Cosmos more in keeping with the movie “Alien” where life exists Out There but life so strange, so inhuman, hideous and terrifying we won’t really want to meet the locals when and if we make it to the stars—
© A Red Dwarf Universe, where we are, indeed, IT?
(If you haven’t seen Red Dwarf, it’s a classic from the BBC and probably, the funniest sci-fi series ever done: but in 13 million years, the crew never does encounter beings from another world, only left-overs from the Earth: robots, mutants, the occasional time traveler and duplicates from alternate dimensions, also from another Earth. One time, Rimmer thought he found an Alien but alas, it was a chicken carcass thrown through the trash-shoot 13 million years ago, when he was still alive… )
In the science community today, there are two opposing schools of thought on this… On the one hand, Drake’s Equation: take the number of stars in the galaxy – 200 to 300 billion, based on generally accepted estimates – and multiply it by the percentage of stars that are similar to our Sun in their energy output and stability, then the percentage of stars that have planets (since not every star has any), then the percentage of planets orbiting their stars at a proper distance (so they can hold liquid water, a necessity for maintaining life). This presents a probability for thousands, possibly millions of advanced life-forms in our galaxy alone. (Whether “humanoid” as in Star Trek or strange and terrifying as in “Alien” – and whether they exist today or went extinct Eons in the past – is not included in the numbers!)
Many people (among them, many experts) adhere to this theory. But – there is always a but! — there does exist another school of thought…
The Rare Earth Theory postulates that circumstances here on Earth which fostered life are too complicated and unique to crop up twice, even with Infinity to do it in. Microbes? Those are probably everywhere but conscious life – intelligence – they think, is rarer than an ice sculpture on the hot side of Mercury.
Never mind a planet’s distance from its sun, it also has to be the right type of sun. Then, it has to occupy the right position in the Galaxy. Get it wrong either way – too much lethal radiation.
A moon about the size of ours… located just about as far away from us, is also crucial for the fostering of higher life, they say, as without it there would be no tides. Then, there’s our magneto-sphere, protecting us from solar radiation. Mars used to have one – doesn’t have it anymore – and look what happened, there.
Then there’s plate tectonics. Some say, Venus may have been a temperate planet once upon a time… but it’s geology was wrong. No continental shifting. No deep oceans could develop. Too much CO2 spewing from volcanoes and the Green House gasses got away, until our Sister World became a good analogy for Hell! The temperature is 900 Fahrenheit, the lakes are liquid mercury, the atmosphere is laced with hydrochloric acid.
Then there’s Jupiter! Its location and its massive gravity tend to keep most comets and asteroids from pulverizing Earth even though a few get through. But for these and other factors, according to this theory we simply wouldn’t be here, period. And proponents of this theory doubt if there are any “other Earths” out there (maybe one per Galaxy, if that.)
Me, I’m going to place my bet on (a)! I don’t like the Rare Earth Theory much! Not only would the Cosmos be a cold and lonely place – it would mean we have the one and only world in all the Universe suitable for human life – and what have we done but trash the place!
We could get the answer soon. They have found over 490 extra-solar worlds (planets circling other stars). None of them are Earth-like but they wouldn’t be… the technology they used to find those planets was incapable of picking up the smaller, rocky worlds like ours. Astronomers are at a cross-roads now, anxiously awaiting the results from Kepler, a space observatory launched on March 7, 2009, which will. Kepler uses a photometer developed by NASA to continuously monitor the brightness of over 145,000 main sequence stars in a fixed field of view. Its sole objective is to find those smaller, rocky planets like our own. At last report, there were over 700 candidates. Some are false alarms… the data must be studied and confirmed… but so far, it’s encouraging.
I believe the answer to these questions will alter how we view our Cosmos – and ourselves – to a radical degree. If and when they find an Earth-like planet and it’s populated, hopefully the natives had more foresight than us. If it’s not populated, maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have technology to get there yet… not until we smarten up. And in the meantime, hopefully we’ll start to rectify the problems here on Earth — before it’s Just Too Late!
(Thoughts on a rainy afternoon… )
You may have seen this image with another palette. I posted the other version in reaction to the oil spill (The Disaster in the Gulf. ) In retrospect, that was only one chapter in a long, on-going story so this time it’s applied to mankind’s meddling with the Earth’s environment from start to end!
Credits to the following at Deviantart.com:
The Grim Reaper is from Ailinstock.
The Joker is from Night Stocker.
The lovely fragile planet Earth is from Jaco Stock but I can’t seem to find the link.
Space Background based on “Space Stuff by Fune Stock”.
Multiple light layers, color changes and effects applied in CS2.