#ExoplanetWeek and Ruminations of Wonder

October 23, 2015

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/most-earth-like-worlds-have-yet-to-be-born-according-to-theoretical-study

It’s #exoplanetweek you guys!

This story is fascinating on so many levels. One is that estimates based on the Kepler planet survey say there should be over a billion Earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone. Multiply that by the some 100 billion galaxies in the universe…!

Earth, these estimates say, is among the youngest of this group of habitable zone planets to have been formed; in fact, upwards of 92% of theoretically possible habitable zone planets haven’t been formed yet. What are some of the consequences of this? According to the article:

“A big advantage to our civilization arising early in the evolution of the universe is our being able to use powerful telescopes like Hubble to trace our lineage from the big bang through the early evolution of galaxies. The observational evidence for the big bang and cosmic evolution, encoded in light and other electromagnetic radiation, will be all but erased away 1 trillion years from now due to the runaway expansion of space. Any far-future civilizations that might arise will be largely clueless as to how or if the universe began and evolved.”

That means we’re very lucky to be able to even possess the knowledge that we have as a civilization about the workings of the universe. We’re witness to something future civilizations won’t have a chance to be witness to.

I always like to say that we’re extremely early in the history of human civilization. It’s hard not to hear the possibility of 100 billion-billion possibly habitable worlds without a sense of wonder or possibility. We may not be at the cusp of human history, of course, as there are forces daily that dare to tear this world asunder, and we may in fact be at the twilight of humankind.

We’re in a great transitional moment, either we learn to live in harmony with our environment and pass wisdom throughout the ages and help be the shepherds of all life to come, or we destroy the environment we sprang from and gives us succor and all we leave behind are the dead for someone else to sift through to see what went wrong. It would amount to this: a giant experiment in human consciousness ending with a giant monument of death warning against the evils of hubris and the limits of desire.

Stories like these reinforce my belief that there is a great responsibility that comes with being alive which is to care for yourself and the spheres of your life to the best of your ability and to create an environment that is friendly to life, that doesn’t cause others danger or damage or live at others expense. A kind of holism, which is partly recognition that the web of life is the sum of parts, and that includes our part. A Cabalistic saying I’d heard from years back (badly paraphrased): “I am the most insignificant speck of dust in the universe; for me, the universe was created”…

-Rex

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