About the only time I see source code is on a screen, and if I’m lucky, it’s not too more than a thousand lines in length. Very rare is the occasion I see source code in printed format, if at all, and in this case, I suspect there’s somewhat more than one thousand lines of code.
I make mention of the Fermi Paradox from time to time, and possibly it may be a misunderstood concept. Enrico Fermi, Italian physicist, who died in 1954, is reputed to have said that if intelligent extraterrestrial life did indeed exist, it would have long ago manifested itself in some way.
Instead, and despite living in a galaxy potentially teeming with life-friendly planets, there is no sign, whatsoever, of anyone else. Now it turns out that Fermi may have been wondering about the feasibility of interstellar travel, rather than discounting the presence of extraterrestrial life, according to the accounts of three people who know him well:
Both York and Teller seemed to think Fermi was questioning the feasibility of interstellar travel – nobody thought he was questioning the possible existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. So the so-called Fermi paradox – which does question the existence of E.T. – misrepresents Fermi’s views. Fermi’s skepticism about interstellar travel is not surprising, because in 1950 rockets had not yet reached orbit, much less another planet or star.
It has been just over thirty years since the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all seven members of the crew, just minutes after it lifted off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, late on the morning of 28 January, 1986.
I remember seeing the explosion, the two streams of white smoke, and realizing there was no shuttle in the middle. I remember thinking specifically: Wait, that doesn’t look right. I remember hearing cameras clicking. I remember one of our beloved teachers standing up on the cafeteria table and shouting, “Everybody shut up. Shut the hell up. Something’s wrong.” We respected him so much that when he did that, we got really scared, because he was scared.
KIC 8462852, a star located about fifteen hundred light years from Earth, made headlines last year after inexplicable variations in its brightness were noticed. It was speculated that something big, much, much bigger than even a Jupiter size planet was responsible, and people began thinking alien megastructures might account for the phenomenon.
Schaefer saw the same century-long dimming in his manual readings, and calculated that it would require 648,000 comets, each 200 kilometres wide, to have passed by the star – completely implausible, he says. “The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot,” he says. “But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas.”
So, KIC 8462852’s brightness has decreased by twenty percent over a one hundred year period, and to date there is way to account for it.
Is it too early to say that this is starting to become interesting?
Astronomers may have found a super-earth planet, a body that is like our home planet, but a little larger, lurking in the far reaches of our very solar system, some three hundred astronomical units, or AU, from the Sun. An AU is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun.
For reference Pluto is an average of about forty AU from the Sun, so this object, if it is a super-earth, and it is indeed a member of our solar system, is a long way from home. Perhaps, if it is an Earth like planet, and there is still some doubt on that point, we could move there one day… if we can find a way to sufficiently heat the place, that is.
Another possibility (which seems more likely to the object’s discoverers) is that it is about 300 AU away and about 1.5 times the size of Earth, making it the first “super-Earth” found in our solar system. Observations of trans-Neptunian objects have led to some speculation that one or two super-Earth’s could lurk in the outer solar system, so it’s not out of the question.
A look at how the 685 multi-planet solar systems that have so far been discovered by the Kepler space observatory, compare with our own. While the size of the all the planets concerned is not to scale, the size of the solar systems are.
At first glance, many appear to be much smaller than ours, but it is possible not every planet in those systems has yet been spotted.
The size of the orbits are all to scale, but the size of the planets are not. For example, Jupiter is actually 11x larger than Earth, but that scale makes Earth-size planets almost invisible (or Jupiters annoyingly large).
We understand now that impacts are a regular facet of life in the solar system, and if you take the extremely long view, close encounters with objects far larger than Tunguska – asteroids that could obliterate regions or even wipe out humanity – are flying around out there and will eventually hit us, 500 or 10,000 or a million years hence. That is, unless we locate these threats, study them, and make plans to mitigate them if and when necessary.