Friday, April 19, 2013

News: Habitable Planets!

NASA's finally found a couple of planets enough like ours that life as we know it could be on them!

But wait, it gets better! They're both in the same solar system - they're neighbors! They're closer together than Earth is to Mars.

But wait, it gets even better than that! The system is older than ours (the star, an orange dwarf, is about 2.5 billion years older than Sol), so whatever new life and new civilizations are boldly going where ever they want to go on them has probably had more time to get there than we have.

It's easy to think too simplistically about extrasolar planets. I can't help noticing that even the scientists quoted about them are having trouble thinking of them as being as complex as Earth. One is slightly closer to the sun than the other, so is described as "Hawaii" or "Washington in May" and the other is "more Alaska." Which is nonsense, as they both obviously have equatorial and polar zones, seasons, and so on. But to determine them we'd have to know a lot more about their axial tilt and so on.

It's easy to think of these two neighboring planets in terms of earth politics, with perhaps one colonizing the other, or two planetary empires competing - but I bet it's way more complicated than that. You could have thousands of countries and cultures on each planet, allying and competing in the area of their common spaces, and the international political situation is several orders of magnitude more complicated than on earth because two equally complex species are competing within shared space.

The triple-gendered citizens of Sqark may not have a stake in whether heterosexual marriage is legal for the citizens of Pomph, but if Pomph controls the shipping routes through the Asteroid Girdle you can bet Sqark, with its dependence on raw materials from the Girdle, is interested in the stability of the Pomph government; as is Klarnk, Sqark's third-world neighbor, its industry stifled by Sqark's draconian import/export laws...And what effect does Hurricane Klaatu have on all these players?

Science is great.

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