Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Infinite Worlds

I read in the news today that scientists believe that there may be 100 billion earth like planets in the Milky Way. I wasn't at all surprised at the idea of other earths, I was surprised that it was considered news. I thought that people had been theorizing the existence of other Earths for decades, and that such theories had been widely accepted in the scientific community. Maybe that was just hopeful thinking on my part.

To me, the existence of other Earths has always been a given. It seems inconceivable that the Earth is the only planet of its type in the vast Universe. There are countless suns like our own, with countless planets rotating around them. Surely among those countless planets there must be some that are similar to Earth?

Or perhaps it was just the amount of other Earths given that was newsworthy. 100 billion is a number that I find impossible to wrap my brain around. Yet if this number is correct, then the Universe is teeming with life. Life that we would easily recognise, and perhaps could communicate with. Life that at this moment could be putting forth their own theories on planets like their own.

I like to imagine what this life would be like. Bipedal, like us? Octopodal? Or, like the Martians from H.G. Wells, tripodal? Are their civilizations rudimentary, or so far advanced that they have interstellar travel?

I doubt that any visitors from other worlds will come down to the earth in my lifetime, or maybe at all. The vastness of interstellar space seems unconquerable. Still, wouldn't it be amazing if they did? Suddenly, this world would shrink to insignificance next to the limitless cosmos. Perhaps then mankind would learn to move beyond regionalism, and unite as one.

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