Not related to my discipline, or even to grad school at all, but some really exciting science news: We have (likely) found life! With a “Goldilock’s Planet” like that, I can’t help but think that the odds are really really good, especially if you subscribe to Terry Pratchett’s take that: a.) Life turns up everywhere it can, and b.) Life turns up everywhere it can’t. In a few other articles, they quote one of the astrophysicists involved:
“My own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent,” Steven Vogt, an astrophysicist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, told reporters today. “I have almost no doubt about it.“
No idea why The Guardian left that bit out, other than they’re stodgily British in their understatedness.
If Gliese 581g turns out to hold life – any kind of life, plants, microbes, even Carrot Top – this could be huge. Like, humanity-altering huge. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that it would overshadow pretty much every bit of noteworthy scientific progress so far. Ever. Even failing that, it’s got tons of fun imaginative potential of what the world would do if we found really cool life (hint: it involves lots of flipping out by all parties involved). Of course, imagining some kind of communicative life, the absolute best case scenario is we could hear from them by 2030 at the earliest, 2060 for any kind of dialog. Space is huge. Though they may already know we’ve invented The Simpsons.
This also really highlights the sexiness of astronomy. Black holes, exobiology, exploding suns… they’re so much better at capturing public attention than, say, the total synthesis of a natural molecule. And as usual, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal says it better than I ever could.