The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 5, 2013

Across the universe: Are there other Earths?

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — We are not alone.

No, I am not claiming to have come face to face with E.T. or been taken aboard some intergalactic spacecraft and subjected to all sorts of uncomfortable probing, but it stands to reason.

A group astronomers announced Monday that there are a bunch of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone.

They found 8.8 million stars like our sun in the galaxy. Twenty-two percent of those, just more than one in five, have planets that are similar to Earth in size and temperature.

They dwell in what astronomers call the Goldilocks Zone, not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

That means, let’s see, carry the one, divide by six, count the toes on my other foot ... suffice it to say there are billions of other planets that are just like our own, sort of.

Whether there is life on any of those planets, we don’t know. In truth, we may never know. But in theory it is possible.

That means on a starry night on a large chunk of rock somewhere in a small corner of the galaxy some thousands of light-years away from Earth, a being may be standing outside its dwelling place gazing up into the big, wide sky and wondering whether it and its ilk are alone in the great big universe.

If there are truly other Earths, I wonder what they are like?

And what of the species that have developed upon them?

I wonder how far they have advanced? Are they a simple species, living in caves or mud huts and hunting their food with spears and rocks, or are they more developed?

Have they moved past the stone age to the iron age, or perhaps they are in the midst of their own industrial revolution. Or maybe they have far surpassed us.

Perhaps they have eliminated poverty and hunger, perfected interstellar space travel or cured the common cold.

I wonder if they have made the same mistakes we have? Are they turning their planet into a waste dump, as we seem to be trying to do to ours?

Do they hate, fear or judge each other based on their skin color, religion or sexual orientation?

Do they settle their differences through warfare rather than negotiation and diplomacy?

Are they suffering through poverty and ignorance, crime and violence, pestilence and plague? Is their society divided into tribes, clans, cliques or countries, or is their species more unified than ours?

How do they travel, riding on the backs of large animals, driving land-based vehicles, flying through the air, or have they mastered the art of teleportation?

Do they have government, and, if so, does theirs work any better than ours does? Do they have Congress, or have they advanced past that simple, primitive stage?

Do they live in gleaming cities surrounded by pastoral countryside, or do they dwell in teeming slums ringed by barren rural wasteland? Is their planet covered with verdant meadows and forests, or dominated by deserts?

How long do they live and how do they die? What is their concept of God, sin and salvation?

Are they subject to addiction, to chemical substances, to distilled spirits, to smoking dried leaves, to Candy Crush Saga  or to football?

Do they go through the exquisite anguish of falling in love and the agony of breaking up? If not, what do they write songs or make movies about?

Do they love their children or do they, like some creatures on our planet, eat their young?

Are they tall, short, fat, thin, green, brown or purple polka-dotted?

What do they look like? Are they hairy humanoid bipeds like us, with two arms, two eyes, two ears, one nose and one mouth, or do they have another, more exotic form?

Maybe they look like dogs, cats, giraffes or wildebeests. Perhaps they look like toasters, microwave ovens or coffee tables.

Do they kill each other, steal from each other, cheat each other, rape each other, slander each other, or are they far better than we are at truly loving one another and co-existing in peace?

And if we could somehow span the vast distances between us (the nearest Earth-like planet is believed to be 70 trillion miles from here), and could stand face to face with them, what would they think of us?

Would they fear us, hate us, love us, be disgusted by us, be amused by us, pity us, or wonder how we would taste with ketchup?



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.