Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Today's fortune: March 8, 2011

Today's fortune: An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!
I stayed home from work today. The symptoms of pleurisy ain't exactly a walk in the park. I feel a lot better, though, and I'm certain I'll go back to work tomorrow.

But today, for the most part, I slept. There's something about the combination of rain, hydrocodone and being surrounded by three fuzzy balls of purr who literally sleep all day that makes a man tired.

Pictured: a rare moment when two of three cats have their eyes open
Unlike the cats, however, I didn't sleep the whole day. I also spent time pondering this fortune and worrying about the Independence Day-like alien invasion it foretold.

But aliens got off to a rough start this morning. After trudging out to my driveway to retrieve the Kansas City Star, I turned to page A2 of the newspaper and saw this:


According to the story, a NASA scientist claimed he discovered alien bacteria on a meteorite, while others with NASA and scientists across the globe said those findings were Grade A horseshit.

To get to the bottom of this alien mess, I asked my older brother. He's a teacher and a space nut, and quite reluctantly I'll say he's one of the smartest people I know. I asked Marty two simple questions:

1. Is there life on other planets?

2. If so, will we discover it in our lifetime?

Here was the beginning of Marty's response:

"I've always had a suspicion that we are not alone. I tried for the longest time to convince my parents that my brother was not of this planet. To this day they still claim he is really a human."
Ha. Ha. Ha. After the joking at my expense, Marty got serious and settled into professor mode by explaining in more detail the above-referenced news story from first-hand experience:

"I have held that meteorite in my hands. It was in a sealed case in the meteorite vault at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Those claims have now been mostly disproved, but think about the odds of us finding life on another planet this way: A meteor strikes Mars, kicking up a bunch of rocks and dirt. One of those rocks escapes the gravitational pull of Mars and hurtles around the Solar System for millions of years until it gets caught by the tug of this planet's gravity, where it plummets to Earth in a huge fireball.  Then it lays in Antarctica for centuries until it is discovered. When we slice it up and look at it through an electron microscope, we see microscopic signs of life. Those odds don't sound good to me.

"The odds that do sound good are to find water. On Earth if we find water, we find life. It has been proven without doubt that there is water on Mars. Do I think there are little green men running around on the red planet? No. Do I think that at some time in the past there were some type of life forms there? Yes."

By the way, Marty wanted me to post a picture of him holding the rock. I couldn't find it, so I'm posting this photo instead.

That's for the 'my brother is an alien' comment.

Marty wasn't finished. His scientific expertise is more vast than anyone could have imagined after seeing the above photo.

"Once you get past Mars, then it gets really interesting. There are planets and moons that have frozen oceans. Some planets shoot geysers hundreds of miles out into space - water geysers.  And there are more planets being discovered every day beyond our solar system.  Most of these are so far away that we can't even see them; we detect them by monitoring the gravitational pull of the stars around them.

"I think there is a good chance that the next Mars rover, which launches in August 2012, will be able to signs of life. The rover is huge. It is the size of a small car, and it has a range of several miles, whereas previous breadbox-sized rovers have had a range of only a few meters.


"If that rover doesn't find specific evidence of life, then I doubt in my lifetime we will get evidence.

"But I absolutely do not think we're alone. Go outside tonight and look up at the stars. Look at the constellation Orion, and the three stars in a line that form Orion's Belt. The light beams from one of those stars that you see with your eyes tonight, March 8, 2011, left that star when there were dinosaurs walking the Earth.

"The universe is a really big place for us to be alone. I don't think little green men in shiny space ships have visited us, but I do think there is some type of life out there, somewhere."

That's some wicked deep knowledge to drop on you in what's normally a light-hearted blog. But I think it's definitely worth thinking about. I don't think I'll be running into an alien anytime soon. But evidence of other life forms in my lifetime is not only possible, it's probable. And in the scope of the history of the universe, one lifetime definitely qualifies as "shortly."

13 comments:

  1. Marty: Those claims have now been mostly disproved, but think about the odds of us finding life on another planet this way: A meteor strikes Mars, kicking up a bunch of rocks and dirt. One of those rocks escapes the gravitational pull of Mars and hurtles around the Solar System for millions of years until it gets caught by the tug of this planet's gravity, where it plummets to Earth in a huge fireball. Then it lays in Antarctica for centuries until it is discovered. When we slice it up and look at it through an electron microscope, we see microscopic signs of life. Those odds don't sound good to me.

    Much the same that the odds are pretty slim that by chance an amoeba over a few hundred millenniums is now communicating with people on an electronic plastic box that sends information over thousands of miles in the blink of an eye?

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  2. Awesome story. Great sense of hunor with facts. Loved reading it.

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