Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nobody Likes Big And Gassy

Looks like they found another planet with a good potential for life, and this one's relatively close, too, although astronomers have such a different idea of closeness it's a miracle they ever procreate. This one's about 39 light years away from us and that's a good long trip without even a Dairy Queen. They're pretty pumped about it too. It's named LHS 1140b and it appears to be rocky, habitable, and case-sensitive.

It's bigger and rockier than Earth, too. In fact, it is said that if you weigh 167 pounds here, you'd feel like you weighed 500 pounds there. My guess is there's not a lot of sprinting going on. It will be Thud City all the time. I'd rather be on a planet a little less dense than ours. Just enough to get a nice lift, so I can finally feel like those runners who poink around in their skivvy shorts like they've got rubber pistons in their calves and even pogo in place when they're held up by a stoplight--like why the hell? In my twenties, I got so that I could run for eight miles but it never felt remotely springy. I was smacking that planet with everything I had, the whole way.

There's a limit to how big a rocky planet can get, because after a certain point it has so much mass and gravity that it has to go for stardom instead. But rockiness in general is a good quality in a planet we could imagine living on. It's so hard to land properly on a gaseous giant. Sucker looks so promising from a distance but then you get there and you just keep going through for miles and miles and miles and it smells like farts all the way down and then you finally slam hard into the rocky interior, by which time you're already dead nine ways to Sunday. Like maybe there could be life on Jupiter, but not the relatable kind.

To get a rocky planet, you start with just a bunch of rocks and pebbles and dust flying around all haywire and everything is hitting everything else until some of it starts to stick together, and after a while the biggest piece is all hey now, hey now and gathers its arms around most of the rest of the available material, and things start to settle down. By the time we get a nice round planet we can stand on, it's already gone through that committee stage and has come up with something everyone can agree on. Your minor eruptions are just part of the cost of doing business. It's ready to rent.

But things that count as legitimate life aren't necessarily much like us, even on this planet. You won't necessarily get legs and antennae and internet capability and such. Sometimes it's just a little squirmy bit of material like a bacterium that shows some intention, and that's admirable enough, considering that a lot of us have no plan at all. Some of us are just a big waste of carbon, if you want to know the truth.

17 comments:

  1. I always want to bitch-slap these scientists when they say things like "life cannot exist on this planet." What they should say is "life as we know it can't exist on it". I certainly hope that we are not the epitome of evolution in the universe. I'd like to think that the universe could do better than us blindfolded and with one arm tied behind its back. Maybe there are life forms that actually breathe methane. Maybe some can live in a really dense gravitational field. Maybe some can fly through the "air" of a gaseous giant. We probably wouldn't even recognize it as life, because it's so unlike us. Humans are very short-sighted and narcissistic as species go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we have lifeforms (or lefse, if you prefer) right here that breathe methane. I'd have to look it up, though. Anyway, I don't think that's a very nice thing to say about humans, inasmuch as the universe does revolve around us. Doesn't it?

      Delete
  2. Gas-giant planets are pretty much vast amalgamations of cosmic flatulence, the telltale residuum of some episode in which the Sun consumed a passing cosmic-scale mass of baked beans. Whatever solid matter they contain is best viewed not as a "world" but as building material for our future Dyson sphere and other such macro-engineering projects.

    A lot of exoplanets get described as "Earthlike" by various criteria, but wouldn't be remotely habitable by humans. Mars is very "Earthlike" by such standards, but in fact it's a toxic desert with unbreathable air and usually colder than Antarctica. We've never even found a confirmed case of a planet with free oxygen in the atmosphere -- and that would be a pretty infallible indicator of plant life, anyway.

    I'd be surprised if scientists often say anything like "life cannot exist on this planet" -- they're usually a cautious bunch, and are well aware that life has been found in surprisingly extreme environments on Earth. In fact, though, there are conditions where it's pretty much impossible for any kind of life to exist, such as temperatures so high that complex chemical reactions can't happen. I've seen suggestions that life could exist at over 2,000 degrees based on chemicals dissolved in liquid copper instead of water, for example, but it's hard to argue that life could exist on the Sun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd give it a whirl as long as it wasn't humid, too.

      Delete
  3. What I want to know is why you took up running, feeling as you did about the effort involved. I've never been able to run comfortably, even when I was as skinny as a blade of grass; it seemed like my body wasn't put together like those of the effortless runners. Never, never, never have I said, "Oh, running for eight miles sounds like fun" and yet you sure look like you were having a good time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That wasn't the running. That was the beer at the end of the running.

      Delete
    2. Well, now it all makes sense!

      Delete
    3. What she said. Hey, I go off the grid for a couple days and my commenters take care of everything for me! Trust me, a half hour before that picture was taken, I wanted to die.

      Delete
  4. I don't want to go to another planet.At least not until I've checked a few more things off my list.Hell!I haven't even been to the west coast of this country!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where does your west coast leave off from your north and south coasts? Is there a Spot?

      Delete
  5. That little squirmy bit of bacterium with intention will probably get busy evolving and stuff will happen until in a couple more millenia that planet will be just perfect for us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...more than a couple. But duly noted.

      Delete
  6. Conversation between Billy Bob Thornton and a motel clerk, from the first season of Fargo, the TV series:

    It’s a different rate for two. And if you’ve got pets – dog, cat – it’s an extra ten bucks.

    What if I got a fish? Would a fish cost me ten dollars?

    Excuse me?

    Or what if I kept spiders, or mice? What if I had bacteria?

    Sir, bacteria are not pets.

    Could be.

    Sir, perhaps you’d be happier in a different motel?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent! I haven't seen that show, but Fargo is just about my favorite movie.

      Delete
    2. Now I have to add Fargo to my list of things to see.

      Delete
  7. In your excellent TBT photo above, where had you been running?
    Last night I was reading Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and other lifeforms was the topic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was the Cascade Runoff of 1983, I believe, running up Terwilliger to Capitol Highway and back down to the waterfront. 15k.

      Delete