In a previous post I wrote about how we discovered the age of the Earth, and I mentioned that our planet formed at the same time as the other rocky bodies in our Solar System.
I didn’t say HOW this happened though. So now I will.
Astrobiology don't you know… sort of
In 1650 the Archbishop James Ussher announced that the Earth was thousands of years old.
Almost six thousand years old in fact. He had discovered that the world had been created on the 23rd of October 4004 BC. At lunchtime.
This was a pretty momentous conclusion. Not only had Ussher calculated the age of our world to a superhuman degree of precision, he was also lending credence to the idea that the Earth had a beginning (many cultures believed the Earth has always existed, and always will) and that it was pretty damn old, 6,000 years-worth of old.
Today, most people are comfortable with the idea that the Earth hasn’t existed in perpetuity, and most people are OK with the fact that the Earth is billions of years old. But this is a pretty recent mindset. Up until about one hundred years ago, no one really had any idea how old the Earth was.
Here’s what happened…
In previous posts I’ve looked at some likely, and some less likely, candidates for planets or moons in our solar system that could harbour life, including Jupiter, three of it’s moons, two of Saturn’s moons, and Mars and Venus.
Now its time for Earth. Yep, you read right.
In 1990 NASA used the Galileo spacecraft to look for life on Earth. Why bother you scream, whilst hurling your cup of tea violently against the wall? Well, NASA did it to test how well spacecraft like Galileo can find life on planets and moons from space. Call it a proof of concept, if NASA can find life on Earth, then at least they know the tech works, and hopefully won’t miss signs of life on other planets.
Here’s what they found on Earth:
OK, this post is a bit of a change to the usual stuff I write about, mostly Star Wars and Spock n’ that.
It’s a piece I wrote for the Pod Delusion podcast that was aired today (Friday 12th Aug 2011) about why I think humans are not more important than other animals.
For those not in the know, the Pod Delusion is a weekly show featuring political commentary, scepticism and other well-worded and insightful outrage at the world. I’ve made it sound boring, but its not. Listen here, it’s intelligent and witty, and you’ll quickly feel your hackles rising, but in a good way. (I’m in episode 97 around the 35 minute mark, if you’re interested).
A couple of weeks ago the Mancunian singer Morrissey said this at a gig in Poland:
Rightly, most people were appalled, and Dr. Tom Williamson, a biologist and supporter of Norwich City, presented a piece in last week’s Pod Delusion in which he stated that Morrissey’s comments were so heinous because humans are more important than other animals. You can listen to it here, and read a blog post he wrote here.
I disagree with Tom, so wrote this in response…
Pluto used to be the ninth planet of our Solar System, but its not anymore. We only have 8 planets now.
But so what, is this really exciting news? Surely we’ve discovered loads of exoplanets (planets outside of our Solar System); there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and if they all have planets then there must be loads of exoplanets, right?
Before I talked about the Fermi Paradox. But the real fun comes in trying to answer Fermi’s question; where is everybody?
Hundreds, if not thousands of people have tried to do this and there are countless written sources, mostly websites but some cool books too. One of the best I’ve come across is a book by Stephen Webb called ‘Where is Everybody’. In it he details 50 explanations for the paradox, and I’ll borrow lots of them here.
You can categorize the different answers in lots of different ways, I group them into the boring ones, the lunatic ones, the cool answers and the, well frankly, faintly disturbing solutions…
Continue reading ‘Some Fermi Paradox Answers: some cool, some lunatic, some faintly disturbing (part 1)’