Our Cousins in Space

The discovery of yet another planet orbiting a star outside our own solar system. We've seen and heard of plenty of these over the last 10 years or so, but what makes this one special is that it's within the habitable zone of the star 55 Canciri, a mere 41 light years away. More or less a "down the street neighbor" in galactic terms. The system has 4 large inner planets which are about the size of Neptune.

This particular discovery of a 5th planet in the star system may not seem like much because it's 45 times the size of Earth and we can't actually live there. The significance comes from the large gap between the system's 4th and 5th planets, some 700 million miles of empty void which is also within the habitation zone for the star. This is where scientists believe smaller Earth-like rocky planets could exist. If liquid water is present anywhere within that zone, either on a planet or possibly on moons in orbit around the 5th planet, then the possibility of life existing is fairly strong.

Any life present in this system is unlikely to be as advanced as we are since any radio and light emissions from them would have been detectable from Earth, and we would already have been able to "respond" as well. The possibility is certainly intriguing though. Even if there's no advanced life or signs of civilization, the presence of Earth-like planets would provide us a goal for extra-solar colonization of other worlds.

The more planets we discover, the more and more likely it is that one of them out there somewhere can sustain intelligent life. The odds are certainly in favor of it.
.........................
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

       
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Posted on Nov 7, 2007 7:23 am by Samson in: | 15 comment(s) [Closed]
Comments
I would certainly like to think that there's bound to be other life out there, as we finally get to explore outside our own solar system, I'm inclined to believe that the odds of us finding some of that other life should increase exponentially.

       
With Samson's mentioning of this I'm drawn to the story of the Star Ocean series of video games, and it just kinda makes me think, what if that were entirely possible...

       
I've never heard of the Star Ocean series, but I do remember having played the Starflight series back in my C-64 days and this discovery reminds me a lot of that. You're mission in life was basically to go look for colonizable worlds for the Earth to occupy, with a very well written story behind our encounters with several alien races we never knew existed. It's one of the better games I've ever played.

       
Well, there's a couple of great space exploration games out there, I think the top rated one right now is probably BioWare's new one, Mass Effect. It's post exploration, and colonization, but still a very nice looking game, about the only one I'm looking forward to playing when I get around to buying my XBox 360 Elite. :P

The Star Ocean Series is a bunch of games set in the future when long distance space travel is possible, and come worlds have been colonized, others just discovered to have "Underdeveloped" populations on them. Underdeveloped meaning they're not at the same point of evolution, and technological advancement as Earth. But Yeah, very good games for the Playstation, and Playstation 2, I can't recall off the top of my head as to whether any were released for PS3 yet though. Links for both below:

Mass Effect (Beware Conner, might be flash involved in the page. :P)

SquareEnix Star Ocean Site (Beware Conner, Site is done in Flash.) It doesn't cover the whole series, just the latest released game, which is Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, 3rd installment in the series, but overall the series follows almost the same storyline, and in this game, you're given the ability to fill in a dictionary, which explains and describes all the places, people, races, and other terms of the universe. (Almost makes it seem like they want FanFiction made out of it, or even a MUD)

       
Thanks for the warnings, Kayle.

For my own taste, the best space exploration game ever was Trade Wars 2002. :p
(if you're not familiar with it, you're welcome to visit my BBS and take a stroll down my version of memory lane.) ;)

       
I would be astounded if there were no intelligent life, and even more so just plain life, elsewhere. I mean, sure, the odds were against us being around in the first place, but the universe is so vast that I would be very surprised if there was *nothing* else out there. Whether or not it will be possible to have any form of interesting travel in space is a different question; for now at least, the physics are stacked against us pretty heavily.

       
No problem Conner, I know how much your browser hates my MUDs website with the flash and all. :P And I was talking about Video Games, Conner. :P

And yes, David, the physics are stacked pretty heavily against us, but I think if we set our minds to it, anything could be possible. Probably not on the scale we see in most video games, but possible none the less.

       
Kayle said:

And yes, David, the physics are stacked pretty heavily against us, but I think if we set our minds to it, anything could be possible. Probably not on the scale we see in most video games, but possible none the less.

I guess you are more optimistic than I am. If the laws of physics turn out such that it simply isn't possible to travel at light speed (much less faster), then it doesn't really matter how much we set our minds to it, barring some form of supernatural intervention. I just hope that the laws of physics aren't set up that way. :-)

       
FTL drive isn't entirely out of the question. Though it may seem like an unlikely source, warp drive as portrayed in Star Trek isn't so far fetched it couldn't be done. We don't need to travel at the speed of light if we invent a means to bend space. Being able to do it for real is going to take a pretty big effort and none of us are likely to still be alive when the time comes to actually use it.

Conner, much as I loved Trade Wars for exploration and strategy, it can't hold a candle to the Starflight series. It's a shame they never did modernized updates of them.

       
I'd consider myself lucky to be alive when we start putting people regularly on Mars, and much less any kind of more interesting space travel... :) I'm fairly confident that we'll be going to the Moon more and more as time goes on.

My favorite sci-fi transportation tech is from one of David Brin's books. This civilization has a "probability drive" where you convince that universe that you are much more likely to be over there than over here. Of course, sometimes it doesn't quite work... :-)

       
Hey, ANSI is a form of video, Kayle. :P

I'm with Samson on this one, FTL and warp and even "transporter" technology are all within the realm of possibility, just recently we had some article in the news about several scientists having successful first steps towards transporter type technology, the rest will follow eventually.

I don't know if we'll have a Mars colony within my lifetime, but it's just as reasonable that we'll find the technology to travel outside our solar system and find other planets that are far better suited than Mars for colonization anyway.

Hmm, didn't Douglas Adams write about an improbability drive that worked something like that in his The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

       
Conner said:

Hey, ANSI is a form of video, Kayle. :P

By some definitions of video, e.g. that used in computer science, video is: "of or relating to the production of images on video displays." So, technically, anything that you put on a computer screen is video. :-)

Conner said:

I'm with Samson on this one, FTL and warp and even "transporter" technology are all within the realm of possibility, just recently we had some article in the news about several scientists having successful first steps towards transporter type technology, the rest will follow eventually.

I wouldn't go so fast, there. You have to look very carefully at what exactly the technology does. As far as I know, they have never succeeded moving something very far at all, but most importantly they needed a receiver on the other end. How are you going to put a receiver somewhere if you can't get there? And even if you did get there to put a receiver, how are you going to get the signal from one end to the other in any reasonable amount of time?

What I'm trying to say is that it's not necessarily a linear progression. It's a lot like electronic chips: there comes a point where a given technology simply cannot progress further. To go further, you need to completely change your paradigm. So, just because we have a certain kind of transporter doesn't mean that suddenly the laws of physics have changed and it's within reach to start moving huge things across huge distances.

Like I said, it's possible that the laws of physics will simply be against us on this end. It's also possible that they won't be, but we don't know yet...

       
David said:

Conner said:

Hey, ANSI is a form of video, Kayle. :P

By some definitions of video, e.g. that used in computer science, video is: "of or relating to the production of images on video displays." So, technically, anything that you put on a computer screen is video. :-)

That's very true, anything displayed on the monitor could qualify as video, but I actually meant it the same way Kayle did, he just doesn't realize that the precursor to the modern graphic based video games was ANSI graphic based video games (like Trade Wars and The Bard's Tale) so I really was talking about the same thing that he was. Now, in his favor, I'm sure he was thinking in terms of modern SVGA graphics and so forth where Trade Wars was mostly text based with some ANSI animations, but it was a great space exploration game with a lot of advanced features for its day. In any event, my offer still stands, if anyone wants to check it out for themselves, just telnet to tcdbbs.zapto.org (port 23 so you don't need to input the port number) and sign up, I'll get you validated as quickly as I can and you can play to your heart's content.. I will warn you that for some reason the BBS feels a bit laggy most of the time compared to what we've grown accustomed to but a big part of that is that the software it's running was intended for dial up access in a time when 28.8k modems were still a hot new item, the other part of it is that it's running under DOS 6.22 and the old dos networking drivers that are still available aren't exactly the ideal ones for the NIC on that machine... *shrug*

David said:

Conner said:

I'm with Samson on this one, FTL and warp and even "transporter" technology are all within the realm of possibility, just recently we had some article in the news about several scientists having successful first steps towards transporter type technology, the rest will follow eventually.

I wouldn't go so fast, there. You have to look very carefully at what exactly the technology does. As far as I know, they have never succeeded moving something very far at all, but most importantly they needed a receiver on the other end. How are you going to put a receiver somewhere if you can't get there? And even if you did get there to put a receiver, how are you going to get the signal from one end to the other in any reasonable amount of time?

What I'm trying to say is that it's not necessarily a linear progression. It's a lot like electronic chips: there comes a point where a given technology simply cannot progress further. To go further, you need to completely change your paradigm. So, just because we have a certain kind of transporter doesn't mean that suddenly the laws of physics have changed and it's within reach to start moving huge things across huge distances.

Like I said, it's possible that the laws of physics will simply be against us on this end. It's also possible that they won't be, but we don't know yet...

You know, it's not like they ever tried to transport anything further than "from orbit" to "just" below the planet's surface even in Star Trek, nor did they ever try to transport anything significantly larger than a human being, and it's not like I was suggesting that we'd just "beam" ourselves out to the next solar system and start colonization on the fourth planet from the third star to the right of here... I was just saying that if they've managed to finally start to figure out how to make "transporter technology" a reality, then they're already in the right mindset to begin making warp drives or some form of FTL a reality as well. We're not talking about changing laws of physics, we're talking about changing our understanding of those laws and realizing that we don't have the technological limits that we once did.

       
David Haley said:

I wouldn't go so fast, there. You have to look very carefully at what exactly the technology does. As far as I know, they have never succeeded moving something very far at all, but most importantly they needed a receiver on the other end. How are you going to put a receiver somewhere if you can't get there? And even if you did get there to put a receiver, how are you going to get the signal from one end to the other in any reasonable amount of time?


Star Trek style transporters didn't have interstellar range. I recall they once said it's limited to about 40,000km from the intended target, less if they have to beam you through obstacles. That's why you never saw them beaming over to Vulcan from Earth. They had to get there first, in FTL driven starships, which in some cases took them months to accomplish even at high warp speed.

Conner said:

ANSI graphic based video games (like Trade Wars and The Bard's Tale)


I must have missed where ANSI graphics got into this, but The Bards' Tale is most definitely not composed of ANSI graphics. I played this originally on the C64 and it used the most advanced graphic capabilities of the time to produce the still-shot images the game became famous for. There's a huge difference between even that old stuff and colored text on a BBS screen.

       
The ANSI graphics came into it when I brought up Trade Wars and Kayle said he'd meant video games. ;)

I'll accept the correction regarding The Bards' Tale, it wasn't the best example just one that had come to mind from the time period. But ansi graphics weren't just about text, which was part of my point. Sure, Trade Wars is mostly text, but didn't you ever watch the movies at the cineplex in the stardock, or blow up another ship or planet? Those were done in straight ansi graphics and didn't involve a single character of text, mostly nice colored blocks.. well, the movies had some text too...

       
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