Recently NASA scientists announced they had found some new planets out there somewhere. Now, this isn’t just a couple of new Plutos—they believe they may have found 1,235 other planets, some of which may support life.
My first thought was: That is so cool. I can save up all my money, explore the galaxy options and literally start a new life somewhere. I could build my own world with my own rules and my own props, all according to Shelley.
It would be a self-sustaining, socially cognisant world of peace.
We’d have no religion, no wars and no shopping malls.
We would be happy and harmonious—bored, maybe, but happy.
I’d bring in only the most intelligent minds to assist in governance and policy. We’d have only the best chocolate and wine. Country music and reality TV would be prohibited.
I thought about what kind of clever name I would have for my planet; Kepler-11 just won’t do.
Then, I took my head out of the clouds and gave it more serious thought. While fascinating, it’s still a bit creepy to accept the concept of how vast the galaxy really is and the possibility we may find other life out there.
If there is one thing we people on Earth are, it’s self-centred. We have barrelled along through life believing we are the only life. Now, we may have a challenge.
In movies, TV and fiction, we don’t always depict life outside our planet in a positive way. It’s probably safer that way; no one wants to think we aren’t the smartest and the best out there. No extra-terrestrial could compete with the savvy Capt. Kirk.
No doubt, outside life isn’t like the crazy Uncle Martin with antennae on My Favorite Martian or the handsome extra-terrestrial teen who lands on Earth in “I am Number Four.”
I think we’d all prefer no other life to have evolved past the turtle stage. It’s no fun thinking another life could really be further advanced than us. No one likes to be inferior on the space stage.
But, what if they were more tolerant and intelligent than us? Would they give us tips on how not to destroy ourselves and our planet? Would they just laugh at us in their eerie, spacey giggle?
Conversely, what if the life on other planets is more violent and dumber than us? If we try to make contact with that silly Da Vinci-type picture of a man with several arms, would they take out our planet in a quick wave of chemical warfare?
Really, other life could resemble anything from an amoeba to a fine-tuned, sophisticated creature.
Thinking about the immensity of the universe is daunting. It opens up so much of our brains to work through it. You can’t help but feel small and insignificant, measured against the fraction of the space we have tapped into.
Going to the origins of life—any life—is a spiritual, as well as scientific, journey. It challenges us to understand more than we are already capable of. Fear of the unknown breeds on itself.
Maybe that’s why we make fun of space so much in fiction and movies. It’s much easier.
So, until we know what we’re dealing with, I’ll carry along with my campaign for the utopian planet. Maybe I’ll give Sir Richard Branson a call and we can go check out the galaxy real estate. I’m sure he has already made plans for his own exploratory shuttle.
When we find out what’s really going on out there, we’ll let you know. Just be prepared to accept something you can’t even imagine.