Curiosity Evaded the Cat (Summer #1)

“We are all connected: To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe, atomically. That’s kinda cool.”-Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophyicist at the American Museum of Natural History

Humanity has always looked to the stars. From the ancient civilizations who created constellations out of the seemingly random pinpoints of light dotting the night skies, to explorers of the seas before the age of what we consider moden technically using these seemingly random pricks of light as celestial guides to their far off destinations. Fascination has led to curiosity, a burning desire to know not only about the secrets of our world, but the world our earth resides in. Astronimically conflicting with our sense of our own importance, the exploration of the universe has led us to discover we are actually extremely insignificant relative to the gigantic universe that is still continuing to expand. Our perspective of our own importance diminishes discovery by discovery. And yet, our technology throughout human history is still not sufficient enough to grant access to the farthest crevices of the universe. Our growth is stunted by our limitations in science and technology, and exploring the universe is a long and arduous process seeded with malfunctions and failures. Just recently, the rover appropriately named Curiosity landed on the surface of Mars amid cheers and celebration far away on earth. It took about about nine months for this rover to reach Mars, not counting the two years and two months the original plan was postponed for because things were running behind schedule and costs were being overrun. In actuality, proposals for this mission already began in 2004. The price tag also ballooned to $2.5 billion.

Why are we, humanity, so obsessed with space and the universe when we cannot even hope to understand it in its entirety in our lifetime (or even subsequent lifetimes)? We have gone as far as sending a sort of space capsule filled with humanity’s artifacts into the universe with no specific destination; it is the manifestation of our lingering hope that something or someone else will find it and discover our existance since we are technologically incapable of finding them. I believe this question’s answer lies in the very opposite notion of our instinct of believing we are the most important beings: we want to feel insignificant. We want to know that there are forces greater than us, and we do not shy away from the fact that we are basicaly not in control of our own existance, though we can infinitesimally manuever our existance’s path with our life choices. Going against our instincts of believing we are the writers of our own destinies, we find ourselves in awe of everything beyond our reach. Perhaps it is because we have a hard time grasping the fact that we are in fact so insignificant in the universal mechanism that leads us to be fascinated with things completely and utterly out of our control. We also crave to understand our own existance, which links back to whether or not we are significant.

And here we pose a knowledge issue in this area of natural science: what would we do if we actually found extraterrestial life, or planets like earth which are inhabitable by humans? 

According to this author, extraterrestial life may not at all resemble what we have ever encountered, and thus the specifications we give to “earth-like” planets (with the assumption of it thus being able to harbor life) are completely null and void. We may be looking for something completely different than earth. However, implications of this are that there are so many planets out there, that we can only cling onto our own knowledge of life and the resources that sustain life on earth to weed out candidates. We are incapable of surveying a wide range of variations on our known recipe for life (but specifically on earth.) Regarding finding planets inhabitable by humans, here we have this article by NASA:

As you can see, we hope to move away from earth as resources are diminishing day by day. However, this also leads to the implication of what exactly we would do at these colonies. We do not want to repeat our mistakes on earth, for we understand our capacity to destroy. How would we handle this? Will there be a certain screening process for colonial candidates? Will we have to transport species and resources from earth to these new colonies (for example, if the plant life is inedible, will we bring in other species)? Will we have laws restricting the contamination of planets by earthly species? Will humans have to biologically manipulate themselves to survive solely on the new planet(s)? Will we need space police to keep unauthorized organizations from colonizing? Of course, all these questions are far-off, very far-off, into the future, and undoubtedly sound pretty preposterous. But they are interesting things to think about. Humans are very aggressive, and we spread like plagues. When we see something worth fighting for, we try to beat all other competition to gain full access. First, we dominated earth. Next, the galaxy?


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