Friday, February 06, 2009

Intelligent Life Outside Planet Earth?

Recently, the European COROT space telescope discovered a new planet 390-light years away from Earth – that’s outside of our solar system. This new planet – called COROT-Exo-7b – is the slimmest planet ever found, with a diameter less than twice that of our own Earth.

This new astrological find probably doesn’t have any life forms like us humans on it – the surface temperatures are estimated to be between 1,000 to 1,500C, based on it’s proximity to it’s own sun-like star.

But this got me thinking – what if there is intelligent life outside of our own solar system?

The ancient Greek Philosophers thought the skies above were the heavens, and the sun, stars, winds, rain and just about everything else, came from various gods.

Thanks to technology, we now know that the sun rise and set isn’t controlled by Zeus, Apollo, or some other god-like being, but is just the natural course of planetary orbits within our solar system.

The real question scientists and sci-fi aficionados have been seeking to solve, is whether there really are other intelligent life forms.

Movie makers have long used this question to entertain us, creating a whole genre of films featuring the stereotypical olive-green men from Mars, with those scary dark as night eyes, long faces, and just as creepily long arms and legs. Sadly, most of these movies are so bad, they shouldn’t even qualify for their “B-Movie” labels.

But the question I started thinking about wasn’t whether intelligent life exists outside of our safe and comfortable home of planet Earth. My thoughts turned to the infamous “what if?”

What if we do discover intelligent beings, able to communicate with us? What then?

We have enough difficulty communicating with ourselves, with all the wars going on around the globe. Some of us can’t talk to our boss, wife, or even to our kids without getting all tongue-tied.

How would we relate to beings from another world?

Would we be open to sharing our socio-economic and technical knowledge?

Would they?

Assuming there are beings intelligent enough to visit us – as we certainly haven’t mastered space travel yet – they would probably be far more advanced than us.

Maybe they have solved all of the common global crisis we face now – war, starvation, famine, drought, holes in the ozone, global warming . . .

It would be an amazing bit of luck to pick the brains of some alien race, who could solve all – or even just one – of these problems.

But then again, what could we offer in return?

Here, have a cheese doodle.

Yeah. Right.

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