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Solar Systems Like Ours Are Likely To Be Rare

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-prefer-my-solar-system-medium-rare dept.

Space 394

KentuckyFC writes "Astronomers have discovered some 250 planetary systems beyond our own, many of them with curious properties. In particular, our theories of planet formation are challenged by 'hot Jupiters,' gas giants that orbit close to their parent stars. Current thinking is that gas giants can only form far away from stars because gas and dust simply gets blown away from the inner regions. Now astronomers have used computer simulations of the way planetary systems form to understand what is going on (abstract). It looks as if gas giants often form a long way from stars and then migrate inwards. That has implications for us: a migrating gas giant sweeps away all in its path, including rocky planets in the habitable zone. And that means that solar systems like ours are likely to be rare."

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first anus (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583465)

but i poop from there!

first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583473)

electric universe explains it much better.

Re:first post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583879)

Uh-oh, someone said Electric Universe! Cue the ad-hominem attackers (how DARE you question the mainstream?!) and the straw-man arguments ("I know nothing about the Electric Universe and I sure as hell am not familar with any of its claims, but it's BULLSHIT I tell you!") and the sheep who really seem to think that what Karl Popper had to say about falsifiability somehow shouldn't apply to astronomical theories.

Seriously, I have never once seen someone dismiss the Electric Universe who was remotely familiar with it. Try studying something before you feel qualified to declare it bullshit, mmkay? And while you're at it, take a good long look sometime at how Electric Universe scientists are routinely dismissed without examination (an arrogant, cowardly act in itself), ignored by mainstream publications, denied telescope time, and otherwise treated like heretics and marginalized. Then ask yourself if astronomy and maybe science in general is in good shape, if it's supposed to be about dogmas and politics and silencing critics.

Re:first post (5, Funny)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583925)

Nothing says "sanity" like a preemptive defense.

Re:first post (3, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584099)

The Electric Universe theory contradicts Time Cube theory, and thus cannot be valid, as Time Cube theory encompasses everything.

Truly awesome TIRL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584309)

Adults Evolve From Children, not from a Queer deified as a God by Religious/Academic Organized Crime, Swindling Educated Stupid and Gullible. Love for God = Hate for Child. Horrendous HOAX on the Educated, for they worship deified Queer as their God - that is Criminal Education.

Well, that does it... (5, Funny)

BigDaddyOttawa (948206) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583567)

Get Bruce Willis on the phone, time to go "Armageddon" on Jupiter's ass.

Re:Well, that does it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583805)

I'm going with a more passive approach ...

I'm ordering my "Jupiter's Bitch" t-shirt from cafepress.com right now.

Re:Well, that does it... (1)

cytg.net (912690) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583849)

The headline ; Likely to be rare ... nice

proberbility to be proberbility -> 2 x proberbility
thus headline -> Solar Systems Like Ours Are very rare.
Wish they'd thrown in a negation or two somewhere.

Re:Well, that does it... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583881)

On the other hand, the rest of us wish you'd learn to spell "probability".

Re:Well, that does it... (4, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584489)

Whatever... this is naval gazing and conjecture, no more credible than Intelligent Design. These guys have a few data points, they create a highly convoluted system that seems to account for their data points, then the moment they get more data, they start over. Again and again.

A good critical thinker should know when to say "We don't have a fucking clue" if they want to be taken seriously. But then, it's all about money, isn't it?

Re:Well, that does it... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584049)

Get Bruce Willis on the phone, time to go "Armageddon" on Jupiter's ass.

Haha. I don't know about sending Bruce WIllis, but this does make me wonder why we have never (to my knowledge...) sent a probe INTO one of the gas giants. We have done flybys and taken photos etc. but it should prove interesting to send cameras and other instruments directly inside one of them. Maybe we could determine whether there exists a solid surface or core underneath the gases (and if it's something exotic like metallic hydrogen) and get an idea of why some of them radiate more heat than they receive from the sun. and the answers to probably lots of other questions. I wonder if there is a technological/engineering reason (as opposed to a budget reason) why I've never heard of a serious proposal to do something like this.

Re:Well, that does it... (4, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584143)

I'm no expert, but as I recall the major problem with probes into the gas giants is that the immense pressure inside of them would crush anything we're capable of making, and electromagnetic interference from the constant storms would make it impossible to transmit any data out.

Plus, every time anyone mentions sending probes into Uranus over at NASA, nobody can stop giggling long enough to seriously work on the problem.

Re:Well, that does it... (5, Informative)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584343)

Haha. I don't know about sending Bruce WIllis, but this does make me wonder why we have never (to my knowledge...) sent a probe INTO one of the gas giants.

Your geek credits have been officially revoked.

Galileo had a probe that was dropped into the atmosphere of Jupiter and it transmitted data for 58 minutes [nasa.gov] before it stopped. Hell, we even crashed the Galileo spacecraft into Jupiter to prevent contaminating Europa or Callisto with organisms from Earth.

Rare? (5, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583569)

I didn't RTFA, but I will when I get home.

But on the surface it seems more to me that they're just saying that solar systems have a life cycle that is marked by the location of gas giants. I don't really think that means that our setup is rare.

But if I am misinterpreting the blurb and that is what they're proposing I would still say we need to hold our horses on any real judgement. We've found these solar systems because our current method of seeking these solar systems out is going to be more likely to find this kind of activity as opposed to what we have here at home. I think we're jumping the gun a bit on this one. I say let them work it out for a couple of more decades and even then we should be a bit more cautious about such sweeping statements.

Re:Rare? (4, Insightful)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583609)

I agree. In addition, 250 systems really isn't a lot. I'm just a lay-person but it occurs to me that the easiest ones to examine via red-shift are those with a gas giant close to the sun.

Re:Rare? (5, Informative)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584463)

The method used to find these systems are changes in the star's brightness when the planet passes in front of the star - so systems with large planets in close orbit are the ones to be noticed first. If you have a planet like Jupiter with an orbital period of around 12 years, you're much less likely to catch that event compared to those "unexpected" systems with short periods.

Re:Rare? (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583641)

I agree, how many known galaxies are there? More than 100 billion (according to Wikipedia*) and with some having as many as one trillion stars (according to Wikipedia*), I'd say the chances of a star system being similar to ours is very possible. Same goes for life, intelligent or not.

*It's on Wikipedia, it must be true

Re:Rare? (1)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583951)

So far, the data would suggest that the chances are 1 in 250 (and since the one is simply a result of the anthropic principle at work, you can't really count it as one). These odds aren't great.

The only thing you could argue to disspel this hypothesis, really, is that our sample so far is not really random.

Re:Rare? (4, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584061)

But that doesn't make them not rare. If there's 100 billion star systems, and even just 1 million stars in each, you are looking at 100,000,000,000,000 star systems. Even if there is a .000001% chance of a star system like ours existing, it means that there are 1,000,000 star systems that are like ours. So they could be both very rare, and yet still very likely to happen.

Re:Rare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584543)

Space ..... it's big.

Re:Rare? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583709)

Agreed - where's the jump to conclusions mat? These are not my idea of scientific statements. First, a sample of 250 planetary systems is a grossly insufficient sample size to derive such assertions in a universe so large. Second, and amplifying the prior, is the samples are severely lacking in data. We are still using "stone tools" to analyze these systems. Much more sophisticated equipment is needed to obtain sufficient data to get a real collection of data for analysis of these systems, granted good theories can still be derived by our brightest minds with even such small details. We have a long road ahead, and responding to the "are we there yet"s with "just a little further" is patronizing, not analyzing.

Re:Rare? (4, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583829)

They're not actually determining that solar systems like ours are rare from the observations. The observations were incompatible with our current thinking on solar system formation. Solar system formation was reexamined, and a more-accuracy theory of solar system formation suggests that systems like ours are unlikely.

Re:Rare? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584163)

and a more-accuracy theory of solar system formation

Ok, but how do they determine this entire "more-accuracy" concept?

Re:Rare? (4, Funny)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584413)

Extensive computer simulation from basic principles. Not, "well, this theory more closely matches what we've recently observed, so it's more accurate".

Believe it or not, logical weaknesses that can be caught by the Slashdot crowd are almost always noticed by scientists. It's just that Slashdot doesn't read the articles.

Re:Rare? (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584633)

It's just that Slashdot doesn't read the articles.

Or, for the most part, understand much more than the most basic premises of the science in question.

Re:Rare? (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584093)

First, a sample of 250 planetary systems is a grossly insufficient sample size to derive such assertions in a universe so large.

Right. We have an infinitely-sized universe, and we can see that among our closest 250 planetary system neighbors that we can see, there are few planetary systems like ours. This doesn't even account for the planetary system neighbors we can't see (at least not yet).

This is like a child looking around the room, seeing all grown adults, and then assuming that he must be odd somehow because the adults are all bigger than he is.

Re:Rare? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584019)

Exactly, because of the type of system we find is quite particular (i.e. gas giant near its star, the bigger the star the closer and bigger the planet) this conclusion may apply only to a few categories of planetary systems. By the way, isn't the consensus on the formation of the solar system that our gas giants moved away from the Sun?

Re:Rare? (3, Insightful)

Devout_IPUite (1284636) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584087)

A man drove from the Dallas to Phoenix.

Upon arriving in Phoenix he casually remarked to a gas station attendant "It's a sham about everyone leaving Phoenix, it's such a nice place."

Confused, the gas station attendant asked "What do you mean sir? Why would everyone be leaving Phoenix?"

Tthe man confidently replied "On my way to Phoenix I saw way more people heading towards Dallas from Phoenix than going to Phoenix from Dallas! I'd say it must be fifty to one of people leaving Phoenix."

The gas station attendant didn't say anything, but we all knew what he was thinkings... 'Of course you saw more people going the opposite way while you drove you idiot! Your relative speeds much closer and you only see new people when someone passes or turns, you see everyone in the other lane on the other hand'

Re:Rare? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584155)

Why didn't he fly?

Jupiter is coming for us... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583591)

I for one welcome our hot jovian overlord.

wake me up (4, Insightful)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583625)

when they have capability of detecting Earth > Venus > Mars size planets

they don't have much data do they to base their theory on?

mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583843)

+1 informative

Re:wake me up (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583977)

Maybe I'm missing something here, but they do, right? I mean, they've used the 'wobble' technique to detect Earth-sized planets in far-away star systems, right? And wasn't there a Slashdot article recently about an Earth-sized planet [slashdot.org] ?

I'm thinking this isn't once the problem it was.

Re:wake me up (4, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584229)

That's Gliese 581c, which is merely five times the mass of the Earth --- and they only detected it because it orbits at one fourteenth of Earth's orbit. In other words, it's a heavy planet very, very close to its sun. The only reason it was described as 'Earth-like' is that Gliese 581 itself is a red dwarf, which means it's much cooler than Sol, which puts 581c in the star's life zone.

So, while it's theoretically possible that 581c could support life, it's still not really Earth-like. We're still a long way off from being able to detect Earth-sized planets at Earth-orbit distances from Sol-like stars.

gas giants? (3, Interesting)

greenguy (162630) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583627)

If gas and dust get blown away, what's to say that rocky planets weren't originally gas giants? It could be that the gases were (mostly) stripped away, leaving the core. Perhaps our rocky planets formed further out, migrated in, but found steady orbits as they lost mass.

Re:gas giants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584071)

> It could be that the gases were (mostly) stripped away, leaving the core.

Ok, and where did this supposedly lost mass went to?

Re:gas giants? (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584497)

To the outer planets? The mass of Jupiter, Saturn, etc. captured the material that was removed from this proto-Earth?

Just an idea.

Layne

giants (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583635)

I thought it was commonly understood that for a solar system like ours to exist, that there needs to be a gas giant to act as a "protector" for the habitable planet(s). That is, the larger planet acts as a gravity well to lure some of the larger objects that could collide into the habitable planet. From the summary, it merely seems to be saying that the gas giant forms closer to the star than originally thought, but that it migrates outwards later in its life and helps to clear a zone for the habitable planet to exist.

Re:giants (2, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583907)

Other way around. They are saying that gas giants form far away and move inward.

Re:giants (2, Informative)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584219)

I saw AFA on this a couple of days ago. They're not referring to observed star systems; we can't yet detect earth sized (or earth massed) planets yet.

They ran a computer simulation of star formation and the simulations had gas giants migrating inward, which ate rocky planets like ours. It is yet to be determined how accurate the simulations are.

But... ?? (3, Funny)

mmu_man (107529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583643)

I know there are many solar systems with inhabitable planets in the galaxy and others, I know it!
I've seen the documentary on TV!
What was it called... hmm Stargate, yes, that's it!
And the Ancients seeded life over all of them, they said so in Stargate Atlantis!
I suppose they didn't watch TV enough to have missed such a proof.

Sweeping out Earths (3, Interesting)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583651)

I can't follow 100% the article, so hopefully someone can clarify this point of curiosity for me.

Is one of the implications that solar systems could at one point be similar to ours? Gas giants far away with smaller planets towards the sun? And then the gas giants slowly creep towards the sun, wiping out the smaller planets that get in the way?

Re:Sweeping out Earths (3, Informative)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583773)

Is one of the implications that solar systems could at one point be similar to ours? Gas giants far away with smaller planets towards the sun? And then the gas giants slowly creep towards the sun, wiping out the smaller planets that get in the way?

That's a possibility, although I would turn around your phrasing: our solar system could at one point be like the ones we're detecting far away, with Jupiter sweeping away Earth and our small neighbourhood friends.

truth? (1)

Pink Fandango (1336947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583667)

I think we're only seeing what the aliens want us to see.

Let's get this out of the way now: (0, Troll)

DwarfGoanna (447841) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583671)

That does not imply ours was created by a giant invisible bearded guy.

Re:Let's get this out of the way now: (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583723)

and the converse is also true.

Just saying

Re:Let's get this out of the way now: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583771)

Your mindset is *so* 1600s. This is the modern age.

A giant invisible woman is obviously responsible for it all.

Re:Let's get this out of the way now: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583855)

That does not imply ours was created by a giant invisible bearded guy.

how do you know he's bearded if he's invisible?

Re:Let's get this out of the way now: (1)

DwarfGoanna (447841) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584109)

I have faith. Duh.

is Jupiter's orbit stable... (3, Funny)

laggist (784355) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583691)

... or should I start welcoming our Jovian overlords?

Re:is Jupiter's orbit stable... (2, Interesting)

mmu_man (107529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583871)

I was just wondering that.
We know the moon is getting further 3,8 cm per year, but we don't yet have any other such measurement for our neighbours.
Though it's harder putting a reflector on the surface of jupiter :)
How about Mars btw ?
In any case, it shouldn't happen for the next million year unless Bender's friends do fart too much all in one direction ;)

Re:is Jupiter's orbit stable... (1)

Tenrosei (1305283) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584127)

I was thinking Jupiter is more or less a stable orbit which is why they are saying our system is rare. It seems to me the article is saying that most gas giants keep moving closer and closer to their star and ours (Jupiter) is like a big fat lazy guy who is content with staying put.

Re:is Jupiter's orbit stable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584339)

Time to break out the Nadesico DVD's again and start taking notes.

I Just Felt Something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583699)

I just felt a great disturbance in the force, as if a great cry went up from thousands of dissapointed sci-fi geeks all at once.

This appears to be a "When you are a hammer ..." (5, Interesting)

SengirV (203400) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583717)

"... Everything looks like a nail" situation to me. We've only really had the ability to discover LARGE planets around solar systems. Also, the shorter the orbit period, the easier it is to detect.

So logically, the planets we've found to date look NOTHING like those of our solar system. Jupiter's orbital period is 4332.71 days!!! And we are comparing that to the VAST majority of discovered planets(hot Jupiters) with orbital periods of less than 10 days?

Seems like this article belongs in the "Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science?" thread if you ask me.

Re:This appears to be a "When you are a hammer ... (1, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584369)

Do you honestly believe they didn't take that factor into account ?
Astronomers would be the firsts to enjoy a theory that says that We Are Not Likely To Be Alone. Be sure that if this discovery is peer-reviewed, all these arguments have already been opposed.

Re:This appears to be a "When you are a hammer ... (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584403)

As it would to me.

The problem with these sort of assessments, particularly when it comes to understanding the universe around us at that scale, is that we are constantly working with what little "facts" that we have.

I am not saying that we should not be constantly guessing how the universe interacts around us, only that we take it with a grain of salt and think critically.

Essentially the less we know the more wild our guesses. The more assumptions that have to be made the the less likely whatever we come up with will reflect reality at all.

I would chalk all this up as "common sense", though that value seems to be a variable in many cases.

Re:This appears to be a "When you are a hammer ... (2, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584513)

This is a big deal, because back when we only knew about our solar system, we formed theories to explain it. These theories imply that we wouldn't find many cases of large gas giants near suns. The current observations falsify these theories. We don't have to have a total picture of every planet in the vicinity to know that; detecting too many large planets is sufficient.

Your issue of our ability to detect only these types of planets is totally irrelevant to the main point about our theories making now-falsified predictions... which makes your accusation that others are misinformed about science that much more ironic. Perhaps you should be sure your ducks are in a row before accusing others of not understanding science.

Re:This appears to be a "When you are a hammer ... (1, Informative)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584561)

Seems like this article belongs in the "Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science?" thread if you ask me.

If you're an American then you made your own point. TFA isn't talking about observation, but theory and computer simulation.

Let's wait for another millennium (1)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583791)

Let's wait for another millennium before we jump to the answer.

When will we learn? A radical idea? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583807)

What will it take (global disaster?) for people to have enough evidence that we aren't going to be here forever and that it's time to wake up and move as quickly as we can toward the stars?

We won't be here forever. It may be a bit of an extreme notion, but perhaps the only truly useful pursuit (apart from Cowboy Neal jokes of course) for anyone is to try and get our civilization into space. If that's the next step in our evolution and we're not helping that, then (in a Nietszchean sense) then we are useless. Of course, it could be argued that various pursuits support this aim in a very ancillary way. What are YOU doing to help the pursuit of space?

Ok, now I'll go out on a limb. In a civilization that seems so bent on war and power and infighting, myabe the best thing really would be some sort of creepy world order that controls everything. Stay with me here a moment.

If this "world order" maintains fairly rigid control of people, what do they have to gain? Where can they go? Why have more wealth and power if one controls the world? The next step just might be the stars. If we can't get together and do it peacefully, is it better (or the only way) to be forced into it?

Re:When will we learn? A radical idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24583929)

The point of TFA is that there may not be many other places to go: planets like ours, the theory goes, would get swept away as the gas giants are drawn inwards to their star by gravity. So no matter how much you may long for a despotic overlord, our rock may be the only place for them to flex their iron grip...

Re:When will we learn? A radical idea? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583935)

What will it take (global disaster?) for people to have enough evidence that we aren't going to be here forever and that it's time to wake up and move as quickly as we can toward the stars?

What will it take for people to realize that the Earth will be around for BILLIONS of years after humans (and anything remotely resembling humans) have ceased to exist as a species? I'm all for space travel and exploration, but it's clear to me that people like you have ZERO sense of the timescales involved in both the planet's lifespan and mankind's lifespan.

Re:When will we learn? A radical idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584005)

If this "world order" maintains fairly rigid control of people, what do they have to gain? Where can they go? Why have more wealth and power if one controls the world? The next step just might be the stars. If we can't get together and do it peacefully, is it better (or the only way) to be forced into it?

Browncoats unite!

We're a rarity? (0, Redundant)

neokushan (932374) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583815)

I guess that means the chances of finding INTELLIGENT life out there just went UP a notch or two.

Hmmm (4, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583817)

Even if solar systems configured like ours are rare, it doesn't suggest that is a problem for either the development of life or intelligence as we'd recognize it (and really is no problem for any other forms of "life").

A gas giant in the "habitable" zone may have multiple moons that end up habitable. If Jupiter was in Earth's orbit its entirely possible 2-3 or more of its moons would be habitable in some form.

That both increases the odds by having more places habitable, but increases the possibility of panspermia, so you could actually have greater diversity in that situation.

What will happen first? (1)

the_arrow (171557) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583835)

What should I be most afraid of, earth swallowed by a dying sun or swallowed by a wandering jupiter?

Re:What will happen first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584193)

earth swallowed by a dying sun or swallowed by a wandering jupiter?

I bet that Russia will be first or maybe China.

Re:What will happen first? (1)

the_arrow (171557) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584467)

In soviet russia, earth swallows you!

there's nothing there (3, Insightful)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583853)

Actual data is highly biased towards gas giants in close orbits because that's what's easy to detect.

Simulations like these don't have sufficient real-world data to make any reasonable statements about what kinds of solar systems are likely.

Also, "rare" is a relative term; if 1% of all planetary systems contain a habitable planet, there would be a lot of them and they'd be rather closely spaced.

Re:there's nothing there (1)

filterban (916724) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584635)

Also, "rare" is a relative term; if 1% of all planetary systems contain a habitable planet, there would be a lot of them and they'd be rather closely spaced.

Very true. Also, keep in mind that the chance of it being "habitable" is actually higher than most people might think. For example, our solar system has at least three strong possibilities for places that harbor or at one point harbored life: Earth, Mars, and Europa.

Of course, the real issue here is that even the distance to our nearest neighbor - Alpha Centauri - is insurmountable in the foreseeable future.

Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist... (-1, Troll)

dtjohnson (102237) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583895)

...since that means the universe exploded into existence with no
creator and then life arose spontaneously on the billions of habitable
planets scattered around. Recent [sciencedaily.com]
analysis of ancient diamonds suggests that life existed on earth
4.2 billion years ago while the earth itself is now thought to be 4.6
billion years old which only allows 400 million years for the formation
of oceans on a newly-formed rocky earth followed by the spontaneous
auto-formation of ancient bio-molecules, membranes, and proteins that
could function as a living cell. Hardly seems long
enough. Now we are told that our solar system with its
incredibly beautiful planet that is our home might itself be very
rare. Maybe there really is a creator after
all? Either that or we are the product of an astounding
string of 1-in-a-trillion coincidences. Which is easier
to believe?

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584065)

Diamond formation requires life? I never knew this.

And just for the record, I'm not an atheist but I do respect their ideas on things. It certainly doesn't hurt.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584131)

Maybe there really is a creator after all? Either that or we are the product of an astounding string of 1-in-a-trillion coincidences. Which is easier to believe?

In this incredibly vast universe, the coincidence is easier to believe.

Unless you're yanking our chain, then, I believe it's the work of Lord Brahma. He's sleeping now and dreaming of our existence.

No, I got a better one: we're the result of a particle physics experiment and due to relativity, our universe will last only a millionth of a second to the experimenter's frame of reference but to us, it lasts for billions of years.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584191)

[...] 400 million years for the formation of oceans on a newly-formed rocky earth followed by the spontaneous auto-formation of ancient bio-molecules, membranes, and proteins that could function as a living cell. Hardly seems long enough.

The problem with these sorts of conjectures is that 400,000,000 doesn't fit into our mind's eye, and so our feeling about what will fit within 400,000,000 years is wildly inaccurate.

For example, you can't feel about how many marbles will fit into 400,000,000 cubic feet without reconstructing the problem into mathematics.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

Tenrosei (1305283) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584251)

What if scientists are just really wrong and turns out once you sample past those 250 that there are millions of solar systems like ours? then you would either have to think its not that far fetched that coincidences happen or that the Creator has OCD.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584301)

It's much easier to equate reality with coincidences
than the paranormal....

But as long as people want to believe in Santa Clause...why not.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

markmuetz (1235962) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584503)

Now we are told that our solar system with its incredibly beautiful planet that is our home might itself be very rare.

Don't believe everything you are told, question the article (like other commenters have done) and you might not end up blindly believing everything you read.

Recent [sciencedaily.com] analysis of ancient diamonds

Case in point: you're attaching quite a lot of weight to one article that "suggests that life may well have appeared on Earth long before the period of heavy-meteorite bombardment" based on the interpretations of light carbon values.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584547)

I don't see any coincidence here. The probability that we were born on an habitable planet is 1.

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (1)

baker_tony (621742) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584559)

Well, with trillions of planets and moons in our galaxy and trillions++ galaxies, you're saying there are a pot full of places in the universe like ours then?!

Re:Makes it harder to be a true-believer atheist.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584585)

Any argument concerning the improbability of life being created on its own can easily be eliminated by just adding an infinity into the equation. Whether the infinity is a universe of infinite size (which scientists believe is not the case, but there are a good bunch of theories that still allow for it by differentiating between the "universe" and the "observable universe", an infinite number of parallel universe, or an infinite number of "big bang-big crunch" cycles, once you have an infinity in the equation, the chance of life existing becomes 1.

I am an orthodox Jew. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that you can never prove whether or not a Creator exists.

Why focus on just this one factor? (0, Troll)

Empiric (675968) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583913)

There are a multitude of reasons the formation of our habitable environment, and its intelligent habitation, are dependent on a finely-tuned universe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe [wikipedia.org]

I'll avoid taking time now to argue I think this is indicative of Design, because I expect to see the usual spontaneous compulsory posts insisting it isn't indicative Design, as sufficient psychological indication of it being considered plausibly Design.

Methinks Thou Doth Protest Too Loudly.

If you think this off-topic, well, one question. Why would it matter how rare such events are? Just state it in your own words. There, thought so.

Re:Why focus on just this one factor? (3, Interesting)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584359)

From Douglas Adams [biota.org] :

I mean this is a great world, it's fantastic. But our early man has a moment to reflect and he thinks to himself, 'well, this is an interesting world that I find myself in' and then he asks himself a very treacherous question, a question which is totally meaningless and fallacious, but only comes about because of the nature of the sort of person he is, the sort of person he has evolved into and the sort of person who has thrived because he thinks this particular way. Man the maker looks at his world and says 'So who made this then?' Who made this? - you can see why it's a treacherous question. Early man thinks, 'Well, because there's only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he's probably male'. And so we have the idea of a god. Then, because when we make things we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself , 'If he made it, what did he make it for?' Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, 'This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely' and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

Re:Why focus on just this one factor? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584411)

I'll avoid taking time now to argue I think this is indicative of Design, because I expect to see the usual spontaneous compulsory posts insisting it isn't indicative Design, as sufficient psychological indication of it being considered plausibly Design.

But I will. This is clearly an indication of Intelligent Design. His noodliness is obvious in almost everything we do! [venganza.org] The recent discovery of the world's smallest snake makes clear [go.com] that FSM has a message to the world: I am ruler of all I survey! Worship me!

Compare pictures here, of the world's smallest snake [abcnews.com] and an artists rendering of the FSM. [venganza.org] Aren't the similarities striking?

Long live Intelligent Design!

Re:Why focus on just this one factor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584495)

That's all well and good, but just one question:

Who are you talking to?

Not just planets (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583953)

Ok, given that habitable (whatever that means) planets are rare, and life quite possibly more rare than that, is it naive of us to assume that every civilization's structure will allow it to move into space? On the other hand, what if ours is an ad hoc, inefficient way of being that will probably just get us wiped out in the end?

Also, until we can propagate beyond where we are now, aren't we essentially non-existent on the universal stage? We look for other forms of life, but if they suffer the same BS we do, then they might as well not exist in the first place either.

Pardon being off topic, but I just wanted to ask the questions.

Massive selection bias (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#24583959)

The reason we see so many hot Jupiters is because, having large masses and being close to their parents, they are by far the easiest planets to detect.

We won't be able to draw any real conclusions about other solar systems for quite some time yet.

The planets may seek warmer climes in winter.. (4, Funny)

IronClad (114176) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584031)

Are you suggesting that Jupiters migrate?

--
Incoming!

Re:The planets may seek warmer climes in winter.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584197)

Noo, NO...

But they could be grabbed from by the husk...

Really? (1)

methuselah (31331) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584085)

It must be true, so far I have only found this one.

Other Solar Systems (1)

xpuppykickerx (1290760) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584175)

It could be possibly that there are other life supporting planets in the galaxy and the planets' top scientists are saying the same thing about their solar system.

Isn't our data selective? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584245)

Isn't this conclusion mainly inferred from our means of detection?

We most easily detect planetary systems with a big wobble due to a gas giant near the star, so those are the ones we see, and from that we conclude that most planetary systems have a gas giant near the star. Whoa.

The universe is big. (2, Insightful)

webrunner (108849) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584321)

Really, in terms of the universe, EVERYTHING is rare. Galaxies are rare. Stars are rare. Matter is rare. About the only thing that isn't rare is space itself. Draw a line segment across the universe, make it trillions of miles long. How many atoms did you actually touch with that line?

Re:The universe is big. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584539)

Really, really big.

Ohhhhhhhhh crap :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24584361)

Seems like a whole bunch of unscience to me.

They're making ridiculous extrapolations based on observation biased evidence without having seen the full picture yet!

Basically we don't know how or why yet and we have to wait until we have big ass telescopes that can see ALL planets in a system orbiting the majority of stars we look at before we can even begin to make a decent theory.

Of course, researchers want publicity and funding so they make headlines and hype over nothing

*palms face*

Re:Ohhhhhhhhh crap :( (1)

Pink Fandango (1336947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584515)

Maybe if they'd created a rap about it, they would have been taken more seriously?

Jupiter...dangerous? (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584383)

I'll have you know that I have a nice summer home on the Red Spot of Jupiter and have lived there happily for quite some time so anytime you feel like dying please do drop by.

Closer to God yet? (1)

proclivity76 (755220) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584443)

With every time that modern science is wrong, I'm more and more convinced of how little we really understand, and how we were irrefutably engineered and not the result of some random joining in a soup of amino acids.
How? When? Who? I don't know. God is as good a guess as anyone has at this point. If something went through the trouble of creating all this, wouldn't He/It give us some kind of advice, even if we didn't want to hear what He had to say? I know my 4 year old doesn't want to hear what I have to say either, but I'm trying to see that the boy sees 5 -- and that is a challenge.
Search, the answer is out there and the answer likely includes "keep searching".

It's not all hot Jupiters out there (4, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24584601)

The data set seems a little biased.

The interesting data is not how many hot Jupiters are found, but how many stars do not have hot Jupiters.

Here's a list of extrasolar planets [exoplanets.org] (last updated in January); and another list [exoplanet.eu] . Note the large number of stars that have planets found with mass less than Mj. The converse of that is that those stars do not have planets of mass greater than Mj. The problem, of course, is that negative results are much less published than positive results. However, here is a list of three published papers that listed stars with no planets found [exoplanet.eu] (that is, no planets large enough to detect-- which is to say, no hot Jupiters. This list is somewhat out of date, as of 2006.)

So the story is a little incomplete. Some solar systems have hot Jupiters, which in their migration inward disrupt smaller, earthlink planets... but by no means all.

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