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Earth-Like Planets In Our Neighborhood

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the known-space dept.

Space 171

goran72 sends in a story out of the Chicago AAAS meeting contending that Earth-like planets with life-sustaining conditions may be spinning around stars in our galactic neighborhood — we just haven't found them yet. "'So I think there is a very good chance that we will find some Earth-like planets within 10, 20 or 30 light years of the Sun,' astrophysicist [Alan Boss]... told his AAAS colleagues meeting here since Thursday. ... The images from those new planets, he added, should identify 'light from their atmosphere and tell us if they have perhaps methane and oxygen. That will be pretty strong proof they are not only habitable but actually are inhabited. I am not talking about a planet with intelligence on it. I simply say if you have a habitable world. ... Sitting there, with the right temperature with water for a billion years, something is going to come out of it. At least we will have microbes,' said Boss."

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Polluted by life? (4, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883517)

For the last 4 billion years the Earth has shed some 2 billion metric tons of genetic material per day. Solar winds have pressed some of this material more, and some less. Some of this material has been captured by extrasolar objects and carried away. Some of it has been captured by comets over which the sun no longer holds sway. Some of it has been so light and so thin that the solar winds have carried it far from home.

These solar systems polluted by life? How could they not be?

Re:Polluted by life? (4, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883577)

Do you have a source for that? It seems hard to believe that Earth could have shed the equivalent of half its current mass in genetic material alone...

Re:Polluted by life? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26883735)

knock-knock!

Who's there?

Jigga.

Jigga who?

Jigga-BOO! [photobucket.com]

Re:Polluted by life? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26883799)

Re:Polluted by life? (1)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885593)

Sextrillion, huh?

Valentine's day is over, and now I can't try this joke out on the girlfriend :(

Re:Polluted by life? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885131)

How many hours do it take for you to shed half your mass in genetic material?

Re:Polluted by life? (5, Insightful)

ean (179878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883591)

The human body contains about 100g of DNA. You're saying about 2E15 grams, or 20 trillion human body's worth, of DNA is not only released into the atmosphere but then escapes the earths gravitational pull and enters interplanetary space.
Sounds unlikely.

Ok (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886207)

My guess might have been a wee bit high. What's four or five orders of magnitude among friends, eh?

Re:Polluted by life? (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886329)

The human body contains about 100g of DNA. You're saying about 2E15 grams, or 20 trillion human body's worth, of DNA is not only released into the atmosphere but then escapes the earths gravitational pull and enters interplanetary space.
Sounds unlikely.

That's because you didn't watch Stargate with as much enthusiasm as the OP obviously.

Re:Polluted by life? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883625)

Do you think we can get sued for that?
*starts looking for a lawyer and holds on to his dead skin cells for a while longer*

Though I'm no expert, I do believe that worlds can pollute each other. Life is so incredibly contagious. Only one cell, or one bio molecule needs to survive. All kinds of events might blow some into the atmosphere and higher. Crashing asteroids and volcanoes might blast stuff into orbit.

A source (link to scientific article?) would still be nice though.

Re:Polluted by life? (5, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883691)

All right, What The Hell?

For a planet to "shed" anything except perhaps hydrogen or helium, that stuff has to overcome escape velocity, which (until rockets were invented in the 20th century), requires an (volcano or meteorite) that would incinerate any complex organic compounds and render DNA a fine ash.

Plus, Google will tell you that the following comes out to 44%, as an above poster already said:

(4 billion years) * (2 billion tons per day) / (5.9736Ã--10^24 kg) in percent

Less than 1% of Earth's mass is at a temperature that even permits life to exist. As for the part that actually consists of life, you can measure it in parts per million and still need scientific notation.

Re:Polluted by life? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884395)

Plus, Google will tell you that the following comes out to 44%,

A more precise answer would be... 42.

Re:Polluted by life? (1, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884799)

For a planet to "shed" anything except perhaps hydrogen or helium, that stuff has to overcome escape velocity, which (until rockets were invented in the 20th century), requires an (volcano or meteorite) that would incinerate any complex organic compounds and render DNA a fine ash.

Those arguments may be true, but it's been proven that bacteria do get blasted out of earth's orbit without getting cooked.

Furthermore, for both spores and viruses the getting cooked is simply not a problem. (viruses contain dna which could fall into a pool of organic but dead compounds and start life, it doesn't matter that the virus itself is dead)

There have been spores tested, and the verdict is that they can survive at less than 10cm to an atomic explosion. This means that moulds that formed on the inside of the detonator of a nuclear bomb would probably contain a few things that will survive the blast*. Undoubtedly viruses can do the same.

(4 billion years) * (2 billion tons per day) / (5.9736Ãf--10^24 kg) in percent

Less than 1% of Earth's mass is at a temperature that even permits life to exist. As for the part that actually consists of life, you can measure it in parts per million and still need scientific notation.

This would not be a problem (even though you're obviously right that the amounts quoted are ridiculous), since earth receives constant doses of dust from space and loses "dust" (with probably life in it) to space. The net mass change of the earth over long periods would be negligeable, in fact it would probably gain mass slowly, despite regularly blasting tons of life into space.

* even though atomic bombs have nowhere near the killing capacity they're rumored to have. One atomic bomb can kill, at best, about 50000 people, in a dense city block less than 1 square kilometer. To kill of "all" humans you'd therefore need to set off 148 million atomic bombs, or about 25 million 150 megaton hydrogen bombs (and there would still be survivors)

Re:Polluted by life? (3, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884881)

There have been spores tested, and the verdict is that they can survive at less than 10cm to an atomic explosion.

Citation needed.

A couple thousand degrees temperature will break up pretty much any chemical bond.

One atomic bomb can kill, at best, about 50000 people, in a dense city block less than 1 square kilometer.

Eh, what? Both of the bombs used in anger so far killed more than that (both directly by the blast and delayed deaths by radiation). And, mind you, those were small 10-15 kT devices. In todays strategic arsenals, you'll warheads ranging from a couple hundred kilotons to 1.2 megatons. And then of course, there's this little baby:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_bomba [wikipedia.org]

Question (1)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885425)

There are plenty of film clips that show the blasts of these things. However, there is never any scale to them. Either the blast is so far away that you can't possibly compare it to scenery or it is footage from high flying planes.

So, out of curiosity, how big are these mushroom clouds anyway?

Re:Question (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885545)

So, out of curiosity, how big are these mushroom clouds anyway?

It's all mentioned in the article. The Tsar Bomba created a fireball about 8 km in diameter, and the resulting mushroom cloud was 64 km high.

Re:Polluted by life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26885067)

* even though atomic bombs have nowhere near the killing capacity they're rumored to have. One atomic bomb can kill, at best, about 50000 people, in a dense city block less than 1 square kilometer. To kill of "all" humans you'd therefore need to set off 148 million atomic bombs, or about 25 million 150 megaton hydrogen bombs (and there would still be survivors)

In other news, a catholic priest recently declared that the concentration camps of WWII were never designed to kill people, and the death toll of those camps was around 200,000 instead of the oft-claimed "over 6 million".

We can all feel much safer now. Sheesh.

Re:Polluted by life? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26883721)

The chances of genetic material from the earth reaching other habitable planets is next to nil because:
1) You are forgetting how astronomically tiny Earth is compared to...what is not Earth. Really not much material here.
2) There aren't actually any known habitable worlds other than ours (doesn't mean they aren't there, just that they probably aren't prolific)
3) The genetic material would be traveling so slowly compared to the distance to any planets out there that they might as well not even be moving.

Re:Polluted by life? (2, Funny)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884085)

Man, imagine how rammed the courts are going to be when entire worlds get sued for pirating our copyrighted genomes...

Re:Polluted by life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884607)

Yeah most of the cases will be brought forwards by the GIAE (Genetics Industry Association of Earth) even after they promised not to.

Re:Polluted by life? (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885011)

This sounds unlikely. The mass of the Earth is about 6 x 10^24 kg. If Earth is losing 2 x 10^12 kg of material every day then the Earth would lose all of its mass in about eight billion years, and this assumes that all of the material being lost is the genetic material.

impossible dream? (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883563)

Lately I've been really pessimistic about the whole thing, I mean, really, who cares? Even if there were intelligent life on planets that close, we would only be able to exchange communication once every 10 years, not enough to actually learn their language, and we would never be able to travel to visit them, right?

So realistically, there is not much point except for dreamers and space geeks. Might as well spend the effort here on earth. On the other hand, what if we could travel out there? Wouldn't it be COOL? I might actually meet a girl. Just kidding.

I want to believe that we will be able to travel long distances one day, hyper speed and all that, but it's pretty hard to see how it could happen.

Re:impossible dream? (5, Insightful)

BungaDunga (801391) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883595)

... exchange communication once every 10 years,...

We could give them, say, the entirety of Wikipedia, and they could give us their equivalent. Write up a "rosetta stone" with a bunch of pictorial/mathematical representations of words, and so on. Probably doable. Conversation back and forth will seem frustratingly slow, but there's no limit to the amount of info that can be streamed across.
Mind you the chances that we will be in the near vicinity of a civilization that communicates by radio waves that we can pick up is possibly quite slim- we've only been doing it for less than a hundred years. They could be in our equivalent of 1750 and we'd never hear a peep.

Re:impossible dream? (4, Funny)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883817)

While technically it is no problem to send them large quantities of information, local law prohibits most of it and you will be sued by different interest groups if you try. So if we find someone out there, then we will probably start to spam them with viagra adds..

Re:impossible dream? (5, Funny)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883845)

We could give them, say, the entirety of Wikipedia

REPORT ON THE INGREDIENTS OF THE EARTH'S CIVILIZATION AS SEEN FROM THE "WIKIPEDIA" SENT BY HUMANS * 20% ---- Elitist mod-trolls * 30% ---- Politics (a.k.a. sheeple herding) * 35% ---- Religion-like (i.e. spirituals, rituals, TV, Paris Hilton, Web 2.0, Slashdot, pr0n, etc) * 15% ---- Obsolete knowledge known as "science" and/or "technology" CONCLUSION Humans make good material for Soylent Green.

Re:impossible dream? (2, Informative)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883861)

Sorry for self-replying, but the formatting was fried (I forgot about the line breaks)
REPORT ON THE INGREDIENTS OF THE EARTH'S CIVILIZATION AS SEEN FROM THE "WIKIPEDIA" SENT BY HUMANS
* 20% ---- Elitist mod-trolls
* 30% ---- Politics (a.k.a. sheeple herding)
* 35% ---- Religion-like (i.e. spirituals, rituals, TV, Paris Hilton, Web 2.0, Slashdot, pr0n, etc)
* 15% ---- Obsolete knowledge known as "science" and/or "technology"
CONCLUSION
Humans make good material for Soylent Green.

Re:impossible dream? (4, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883937)

[citation needed]

Re:impossible dream? (5, Funny)

ion++ (134665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883951)

CONCLUSION: Mostly harmless

Re:impossible dream? (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885207)

Edited a few minutes later:
... and tasteless.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884341)

we've only been doing it for less than a hundred years

So what we can conclude as likely is that no civilization within around fifty light-years is advanced enough to detect our radio signals and respond. ...

Well, either that or they're advanced enough to have detected them, but not advanced enough for FTL travel, and they didn't want to respond via radio. Because if you saw Barney the purple dinosaur and Rush Limbaugh on TV, would you want to give us any warning you're coming before you nuke us from orbit?

Re:impossible dream? (2, Insightful)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884821)

Or they were advanced enough at some point and have since bombed themselves back into the bronze age and are building themselves back up again. We really have no data about how stable a technological society is, if it turns out to be a hundred years of advanced technology for every 10,000 of savagry, it would be quite fortuitous to exactly line up with a suitable conversation partner.

Re:impossible dream? (2, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885401)

if it turns out to be a hundred years of advanced technology for every 10,000 of savagry

Who says the two are mutually exclusive?

Re:impossible dream? (1)

antic (29198) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884979)

"They could be in our equivalent of 1750 and we'd never hear a peep."

In a universe with an age measured in billions of years, it might be just as likely the separation in advancement of species be measured in millions of years. i.e., "they" could be far, far off being able to communicate, or advanced enough that them buzzing our planet and abducting people to study could be done without causing a massive fuss (outside of what many would think of as crazies talking about a close encounter).

Idle and flawed guessing: We're probably 10-40 light years from a potential 'other' life-supporting planet. Could it be that our first rudimentary transmissions reached such a planet, they sent exploratory vehicles on a research mission, those vehicles arrived and are now returning home before a decision be made (attack, enslave, befriend, hide like a Spathi, etc)?

I guess any sufficiently advanced species would be aware of the issue of distance and perhaps send a sequence of missions, or some official if-then instructions? Or would they take such contact seriously and decide that patience is the best tact?

If we were they, we wouldn't hear them (2, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886333)

"They could be in our equivalent of 1750 and we'd never hear a peep."

In fact, they could be our equivalent of 2009 and we'd never hear a peep.

Except for one or two exceptions, no radio signals from Earth are strong enough to be detectable at interstellar distances using the receiving technologies that we use for SETI.

The "exception" is ballistic-missile warning radar, which might be detectable, if it were at the wavelength being searched, and they happened to be looking in the right direction when the Earth happened to be rotated so that the radar pointed the right way. But there's no signal in radar, and even the carrier would be gone when they looked again to follow up, so to a SETI search, it would be tagged "noise"-- most likely a side-lobe of a transient terrestial source, possibly a satellite. (Unless they knew the Earth's rotational period, so they could look again when the signal was aligned their direction.)

Re:impossible dream? (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885083)

Mind you the chances that we will be in the near vicinity of a civilization that communicates by radio waves that we can pick up is possibly quite slim- we've only been doing it for less than a hundred years.

And how much longer are we going to be doing it, with everything converging onto the Internet? If the earth lights up as a radio source in the early 20th century, but has gone dark again by the dawn of the 22nd because almost everything is now connected to fibre, what hope is there for SETI?

Re:impossible dream? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885345)

As long as this puppy [fas.org] and these guys [fas.org] are in operation, I doubt the aliens will miss us, although the information content of radar beams may call our intelligence into question!

Re:impossible dream? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26883611)

Call-and-response would indeed be ridiculous, but that doesn't mean that communication would be impossible or fruitless. Just start transmitting, and hope they get the same idea. Anything, everything. Any questions likely to be thought up an alien culture could probably be thought up by us as well. Send the answer without waiting for the question.

It might take 20 years round-trip to get an answer to a specific question, but maybe someone on the other side already thought of it.

Re:impossible dream? (5, Insightful)

MrPayne (1278824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883617)

I would think that we wouldn't just send "Hi" and wait for a response. I think we would constantly be sending them information and let them learn what we are sending. We would hope they would do something similar.

Re:impossible dream? (2, Insightful)

Robin47 (1379745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885075)

That sounds a lot like instant messenger.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883619)

Lately I've been really pessimistic about the whole thing, I mean, really, who cares? Even if there were intelligent life on planets that close, we would only be able to exchange communication once every 10 years, not enough to actually learn their language, and we would never be able to travel to visit them, right?

So realistically, there is not much point except for dreamers and space geeks. Might as well spend the effort here on earth. On the other hand, what if we could travel out there? Wouldn't it be COOL? I might actually meet a girl. Just kidding.

I want to believe that we will be able to travel long distances one day, hyper speed and all that, but it's pretty hard to see how it could happen.

Firstly, it's "warp speed" not "hyper speed", and secondly, you weren't kidding - keep trying with the terrestrial women for now. I admire your spirit kid, but you're no James Tiberius Kirk.

Re:impossible dream? (2, Insightful)

warrigal (780670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883627)

There have been several of these stories in the last month or so. Enough to make one suspect that someone has an agenda. It's all fantasy and dreaming until there's some hard evidence. For all the theories for there being intelligent life Out There, there are as many that run against it. The simple fact is we don't know and, apart from a desire to find something, we have no reason to suspect that there is life beyond this planet. So far we have one life-bearing planet in this solar system. The others we've inspected have drawn blanks. Again, there is no good reason to suspect that we are not alone. If we aren't, so much the better. But these breathless items about how many planets *might* support life serve no purpose. May as well say they'll cure cancer.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884277)

This is modded insightful? "For all the theories for there being intelligent life Out There, there are as many that run against it." Sounds like what Creationists call an 'argument' against evolution. Nothing but the vague implication that some kind of opposing view exists somewhere. I for one would really like to hear some of these theories against extraterrestrial life. While I won't turn to the Drake Equation, I'll just say how in the hell do you expect that out of a trillion or so stars in our galaxy alone that we happen to be in the only place that has life? Especially given that our star is of a fairly common type (and so therefore solar systems like ours should be similarly common). ET life might be irrelevant for practical reasons, but to call it unlikely would require making some very unbalanced statistical assumptions.

Chemistry. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886095)

"we have no reason to suspect that there is life beyond this planet"

I do, it's called chemistry. Enlightenment in ten minutes [youtube.com] , great sound track to boot!

Re:impossible dream? (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883655)

Lately I've been really pessimistic about the whole thing, I mean, really, who cares? Even if there were intelligent life on planets that close, we would only be able to exchange communication once every 10 years, not enough to actually learn their language, and we would never be able to travel to visit them, right?

I wouldn't be so pessimistic. Sure, conversations would have multi-year latency, but so what? I mean, I don't communicate with Japan, but I still find their cartoons hilarious. Some people in Japan watch American TV and enjoy it, even if they never contact the producer to tell them as much. Once contact is established between two civilisations, you'd have constant data being sent back and forth. It's impossible to say if we'd figure out a language, but it'd still be interesting just to see what they put out there for the universe to see.

And, honestly, I feel that language would be pretty doable, if you get something like TV established. It might be impossible if all we ever get is radio, so we can never see a context for their words, but if we can get something like "Barney" for aliens, we'd probably be able to sort out some of what they are saying.

Re:impossible dream? (5, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883657)

Man, you ARE pessimistic. As well as wrong.

Once it became known that a civilization existed in a particular star system... and they knew about us... communication could be continuous both ways, not just back-and-forth like a walkie talkie every 10 years.

Starting with math: primary numbers, Fibonnacci sequence and other natural patterns, on to addition, subtraction, etc... then to logical propositions and conclusions... we could communicate an entire language and maybe even a couple of encyclopedias in the time it took for ONE 10-year round trip of communication.

And with ion drives, or Bussard ramjets (especially if they are Pellegrino-style vehicles that pull instead of push), maybe we could get there in, say, 50 years or so. And spend most of that time in something like cold sleep. There have been advances in that direction, too. Do we have the technology to do this? No. But we might in 10 years, or 20.

Of course, we would have to decide what and how much to send in our communications. There could be very real danger. I do not think most people understand just how deadly we (and by implication, they) could be, given enough time and effort, even to a civilization light-years away.

"Flying to Valhalla", by Charles Pellegrino, is a work of fiction. It is the book in which he introduced a totally new (but perfectly sound from an engineering standpoint) style of interstellar ship construction. As controversial as Pellegrino is as a person, there is no doubt that he is, as the saying goes, "wicked smart". There are some very plausible cautions in his book.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884135)

i don't think they can be dangerous in any kind of practical way as long as they don't posses more advanced technology. the vast distance will keep both of us comfortable and not feeling threatened. even if they launched a nuclear strike, we'd know what direction to look for it and have a decade to respond.

Re:impossible dream? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884197)

that's assuming their nukes move at the speed of light. we'd have to chisel it into stone for eons from now.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

RiotXIX (230569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883671)

absoloutely: the next step would be to harness the abilities of a) time dilation (http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/phonedrmarc/2003_may.shtml, http://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=UrK&q=time+dilation&btnG=Search&meta= [google.co.in] ) to allow for future time travel in some space ship, and the ability to drop someone into a coma / life support device for a lifetime or more. If stuntmen, soldiers and astronauts are willing to take those risks I'm sure someone would do this.
Seriously, it won't happen in our lifetime, but who could have imagined planes realistically 200 years ago? If we are sent back pictures of a human society (but 2009 years in the future!) on another planet, it would inevitably unite the people of earth, and probably invoke an worldwide effort to make contact. Or perhaps governments to devise operation 'Enduring Intergalatic Freedom'. Eitherway, I find it credible.

PS. Pater@slashdot.org give us an option for the old slashdot back in preferences - the new ajax doesn't work in many places.

Re:impossible dream? (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883727)

People were doubting planes only a couple of years more than 100 years ago! Let's keep it in proper perspective!

Re:impossible dream? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883893)

PS. Pater@slashdot.org give us an option for the old slashdot back in preferences - the new ajax doesn't work in many places.

This is available, click on the preferences at the top of the comments, then select

"Slashdot Classic Discussion System"

I agree, the new ajax was so nice for a while but recently it's really been messed up. I switched back to the old one a month ago. I almost stopped reading at all, it was so painful.

Re:impossible dream? (3, Interesting)

shawb (16347) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883901)

I honestly am not convinced that we'd need any brand new branch of physics to send someone to a star 10 lightyears away. When you start accelerating to high speeds, time dilation comes for free with the package. I remember someone showing me the math a while ago, but I don't remember who it was so they may have been full of it, but anyways... for traveling large distances under constant acceleration you can pretty much use classic Newtonian physics from the point of view of the traveler, as reaching relativistic speeds causes space to constrict rather than time if you are the traveler rather than the stationary observer.

What does this mean for traveling interstellar distances? If you can carry enough reaction mass or somehow collect it on the way, simply accelerate at a comfortable rate until you are halfway to the destination, then turn around and begin deceleration at the same rate for the second half. working the numbers [google.com] shows that accelerating at 9.8 meters per second per second will get you halfway to a destination 10 light years away in 2.2 years. 4.4 year one way trip, 8.8 year round trip. All with 1G of acceleration so you would have no need for exotic technology to simulate gravity to maintain health. There would physiologically be no need for sleep/stasis for the travelers. Stasis may, however, prove to be more energy efficient and psychologically easier than being cooped up in a spaceship for about 9 years.

Granted, the relativistic effects would need to be taken into account for plotting the course, as the destination planet will have been traveling through space for much more than 10 years. And when you get home your descendants will probably have died of old age.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884173)

I think it'd pretty much have to be a one-way trip. Sending people 10 lightyears through space isn't cheap. The only reason to send people there in the first place would be either to act as ambassadors and advisers to the intelligent species living there, or to set up a colony if the planet happens to be devoid of intelligent life. Either way, coming back wouldn't be part of the plan. The ship could be put to much better use such as ferrying things back to earth, whether they be alien ambassadors or physical specimens of extraterrestrial discoveries.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

bluntman2008 (1355349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884255)

10 light years away in 2.2 years. 4.4 year one way trip, 8.8 year round trip

Except this would require accelerating to faster than the speed of light, which most people are pretty sure is impossible using current technology.

Re:impossible dream? (5, Informative)

shawb (16347) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884433)

While it initially appears that you would be traveling faster than the speed of light, you indeed are not... when you reach relativistic speeds space itself compresses, so from your perspective the distance traveled between two points is less than the distance as measured from a resting observer. End result your measured velocity is less than C. To the resting observer, you travel the larger distance, but time is dilated such that your velocity is lower than C. Since the apparent distance between the origin and the destination is decreased, the amount of time it takes light to make the same journey would be less than the amount of time it takes you. In fact, from your perspective light is still traveling... at the speed of light.

Now, to take the concept to the ultimate (but unreachable) conclusion: to reach such a velocity that an outside observer would record you as moving equal to the speed of light: To the traveler it would seem as if there was actually no distance traveled, and the journey took no time at all. What the traveler would observe is space and time folded between the origin and the destination... for a 10 light year journey, you would instantly travel to the destination, but 10 years later. The return trip would also be instantaneous, but 20 years would have elapsed at home since you have left. Thus, the speed of light is not violated. However, to cut your travel time to zero in a Newtonian framework, you would need to reach infinite speed in zero time, which would require infinite acceleration, which would in turn require infinite energy. That is impossible, so an object with a resting mass cannot travel at the speed of light (or beyond.) But you still have to take into account the fact that at relativistic speeds, space constricts while time dilates, allowing for what on the surface appears to be traveling faster than the speed of light, but actually is not.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

BobReturns (1424847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884493)

2.2 years from the perspective of the travelers - due to time dilation. Wouldn't actually be faster than the speed of light.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

DrMaurer (64120) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886481)

I think the parent you're referring to is 4.4 light years for the people on the ship. Time dilation and all that rot.

Re:impossible dream? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884631)

Travel at relativistic speeds would require some kind of powerful deflector to push the interstellar medium out of the way (or collect it carefully) - it would be traveling at relativistic speeds, too, relative to the traveler, and irradiating the traveling ship very heavily. Much more realistic to look at a fraction of c and hope for hibernation tech and advanced AI to run things.

Re:impossible dream? (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884479)

And that's why you send lots of stuff at the same time

It's not like

- Hey!
(wait 10 years)
- Hello
(wait 10 years)
- How are you doing?
(wait 10 years)
- Fine thanks, what's your name?
(wait 10 years)
- Sbrusbrjsk
(wait 10 years)
- Sbusbwat?! Soory, the guy who asked the question died...

Re:impossible dream? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884507)

There was a Sci Fi short story about this (I think it was Asimov). Basically, a mission to one of the moons of Saturn found life, but the space ship was going to be destroyed in a couple days. The question was how to get as many questions answered in that time period as possible.

    The scientists were trying to figure out a faster-than-light communication technique. The answer of course, was more mundane. Continuously send and receive information. If something to you garbled, ask to it to be send again. Just keep on talking (and listening).

"may be" (2, Insightful)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883571)

and there may be a treasure chest buried in my back yard... I just haven't found it.

Re:"may be" (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883769)

You keep digging. We'll keep looking outward.

To the best of my knowledge, most people who became rich or famous, or acclaimed scientists, or even heroes... most of them said "Screw the backyard. I want to know what's over the next hill..."

Not many of them made it. But none of those who were still in their backyards did.

Re:"may be" (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883773)

The difference being, of course, that the tools exist to let you find out whether the treasure chest is there if you choose to do so. That isn't the case yet for finding Earth-size planets 10 or 20 light years away, especially if they're orbiting a long way out from a bigger, hotter star than ours.

In any case, it's considerably more likely that somebody made a few bucks by accepting barrels of toxic waste for burial in what is now your back yard, then sold the property to a developer.

Internal Server Error (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26883623)

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500 Internal Server Error (1)

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Internal Server Error
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Re:500 Internal Server Error (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26883989)

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Our mission to discover new worlds.... (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883661)

No question that we can't seem to stop the infection of living conscious - its seems like a good idea to get a little more room. "There goes the neighborhood"....perhaps but honestly, in this twisted world of now, I find myself increasingly relieved by as much space exploration as possible. Perhaps a vicarious thrill or indulging the imagination or wishful thinking....or perhaps an innate instinct to survive elsewhere, in a place without human institutions anachronistic and twisted with human error and befuddlement. 'La Tabla Rasa' - a clean slate - for the messy ascent of men - Like the hope of a new world, that became the discovery of new continents, before it turns into self centered and self destructive human nature infusing itself into society. Whatever....beam me up Scotty....my unemployment runs out in a few weeks and frankly my stimulus package needs a little more stimulatin' or at least I desire a much broader approach to the possibilities of living life in pursuit happiness outside the realm of the obvious, bleaker possibilities....

How is this news? (1)

zombie_monkey (1036404) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883673)

Our technology as of now is not good enough to detect earth-sized planets at any distance. The discoveries we have made have been due to said planets having specific rare properties of their orbits. So of course, we still have no way to tell how common solar systems like ours are, although we do know it's not almost all of them, quite a few are different, most of the ones we've been able to discover. But we don't know anything about the rest.

Re:How is this news? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883783)

Actually, that is incorrect. We have just recently detected some earth-sized planets. Apologies, I don't have a link to the info, but I bet you can find it on Ars Technica.

Re:How is this news? (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883841)

Scientists Discover Smallest Exoplanet [livemint.com]

French scientists have discovered the smallest planet yet located out of our solar system, a celestial find less than twice the size of Earth and which orbits a Sun-like star.

That's with the technology we've got in operation now (also referenced in TFA). In the next decade we're set to put up even better technology [wikipedia.org] . You can bet that if Earth-like habitable planets are at all common in our neck of the woods we'll have found one within the decade.

Re:How is this news? (1)

zombie_monkey (1036404) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884679)

It orbits closely around its star once every 20 hours, [...]

That's why they were able to detect it, and all other planets we have found, the bigger oens make the star wobble by their gravity and this orbits so closely that it makes a visible dark spot on the star. But it is true of course that in the near future some good gizmos are going operational that will help. But we can't be sure what we'll see. I am optimistic, though.

conjecture (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883871)

'I simply say if you have a habitable world ... sitting there, with the right temperature with water for a billion years, something is going to come out of it. At least we will have microbes,' said Boss.

This is exactly the thing that nobody knows ... how likely is it that life will occur in these conditions? It might be so unlikely that we are the only planet with life despite billions of ideal planets. Until we find at least one other planet with life on it (and sample its genetics to confirm or rule out panspermia) we won't have an answer to this question.

Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884039)

As I've posted before, this type of "Earth exceptionalism" is more related to the field of religion than science. There is no a priori reason to believe that the Earth is an unusual planet unless you buy in to the creation myths of some peoples who lived in the Near East circa 4000-2000 years ago. (Other societies, such as those of India, believed in a plurality of worlds and intelligent life forms.) Using Occam's Razor we would conclude that our planet revolves around a very ordinary star, everything else observed about our planet suggests it is unexceptional, therefore the emergence of life is likely to be unexceptional. Falsification of the default hypothesis would involve finding an earth-like or near earth-like planet which did not have life on it. Protestant Biblical literalism is not a scientific attitude. So far, the history of science has shown that every form in which exceptionalism has shown up has been found to be wrong, e.g.
  • Earth is flat disc with crystal dome above
  • Earth is sphere at centre of solar system
  • Earth goes around Sun which is centre of Universe
  • Sun is a star in the Galaxy which is the entire Universe

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884141)

This is why bigotry towards the religious is so important - it puts them in their place. We need to replace religion with 100% science - superstition is no way to go through life. It's our responsibililty to stamp out religion wherever it appears.

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (0)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884327)

If it weren't for those Atheism Cult loonies, you might have something there.
The vast majority of atheists I've encountered in life are no better than the religious types they mock; they spout off that they are 100% certain that god(s) do not exist.
Fine, I say, prove it. show me your documented research on the subject, using whatever methodology you wish, that establishes, scientifically/logically/whatever, that gods do not exist.
oh, you mean you accept it on FAITH that god(s) do not exist?....
I feel that my own religious views, being a Agnostic Pagan, to be much more logical. Gods might exist. they might not. as I am not a god myself, I do not feel it is my place to say one way or the other, it is sort of hard to prove. I would say impossible to prove, but that would require FAITH on my part.
Or, as I tell my kids: "If I drop this rock, it will almost certainly hit the floor. But it is possible that it won't"
Replacing religion with 100% science is not...scientific.

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884347)

I agree completely! Even worse are those Elvis-is-not-still-alive loonies! Fine, I say, prove it. show me your documented research on the subject, using whatever methodology you wish, that establishes, scientifically/logically/whatever, that elvis isn't alive. oh, you mean you accept it on FAITH that he isn't alive?....

Silly buggers, the lot of 'em!

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884589)

Interesting...
one little teenie tiny problem though; it can be proven scientifically that Elvis is dead through forensic examination.

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

fredrik70 (161208) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885595)

Maybe you cannot prove that Got doesn't exists, however, I see it as EXTREMELY unlikely considering all we know. If god existed and operate within our physical world, then who created him?
I believe in KISS and the world of science provided a far simpler and logical, and even more beautiful, solutions to why we are here than any old god
oh and regarding the stone hitting the floor, unless there are other forces working on it than gravity - it will hit the floor every time, it's the law around where we are! ;-)

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

I'm not really here (1304615) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886147)

it will hit the floor every time

Tell a quantum physicist that....

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884909)

This is why bigotry towards the religious is so important - it puts them in their place. We need to replace religion with 100% science - superstition is no way to go through life. It's our responsibililty to stamp out religion wherever it appears.

This kind of militant atheism terrifies me. Next step will be "We must wipe religion off the map". Sound familiar?

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884225)

There is nothing religious about the "Earth exceptionalism" theory of having a close orbiting moon roughly half the mass of the planet. I just finished writing another post in this thread explaining it [slashdot.org] .

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

Permutation Citizen (1306083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884467)

I agree, current status of science can not state at all if life is common or not.

For now, we observe life only on earth. This observation is not objective at all : we can make it because there is intelligent life to make the observation.

Having earth like planet hosting life within 30 light years is a just a conjecture. We may have a telescope able to observe these kind of planets quite soon, say a few years. All we need is orienting a part of the space budget there.

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

rwjyoung (674310) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884405)

Whilst hoping that the earth is not all that exceptional, I think the moon plays a significant part in stabilizing the climate and rotation of the earth. Not only that but just being there protects the earth from impact. What hits the moon doesnt hit the earth. The moons effect on the oceans is seen by many as significant. If the planet you detect undergoes violent disturbances every 100,000 years or so life is going to find it real tough to get anywhere.

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

0dugo0 (735093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884661)

There is nothing exceptional about being at the center of the observable Universe..

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886051)

You completely miss the point. I am not coming from an "earth is special" viewpoint. I am coming from a "life if a random occurrence of molecules bumping together viewpoint." Therefore the chance of life forming is less than 100%. It could be anywhere from 99.999999999% to 0.00000001%. I am not arguing one way or the other - I am totally agnostic on the issue. I am just pointing put that the quote in TFA (and you) are assuming it is 99.999999999% with absolutely no evidence. Yours is the religious viewpoint.

There's no need to be dim about it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26886073)

There is no a priori reason to suppose that earth is a common planet unless you buy into the aliens are everywhere myth.

Just because we have Sony Walkman here on earth, and the conditions needed to make such things exist everywhere else in the universe, it does not follow that Sony Walkman must exist somewhere else. It doesn't even follow that the existence of Sony Walkman are likely somewhere else.

Let's wait and see, and stop letting our imagination carry us away into fantasy land.

Re:Entia non sunt multiplicanda... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26886189)

* Earth is flat disc with crystal dome above
        * Earth is sphere at centre of solar system
        * Earth goes around Sun which is centre of Universe
        * Sun is a star in the Galaxy which is the entire Universe

Now really.. How do you expect us to believe ALL of that was created in just 6000 years? ;)

(Yes, I'm joking)

Well, there goes the neighborhood. (3, Funny)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 5 years ago | (#26883957)

I don't want an Earth-Like planet in my neighborhood because they bring down the property values.

Re:Well, there goes the neighborhood. (1)

wITTus (856003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884171)

Don't worry. Human population would probably double within less than one century.

Prof. Colin Pillinger... (0, Flamebait)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884147)

...is rapidly building Beagles 3 thru 255 in his garden shed, to launch and splat into these new planets. Fly you puppies, fly!

Water alone wont cut it (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884177)

'I simply say if you have a habitable world. ... Sitting there, with the right temperature with water for a billion years, something is going to come out of it. At least we will have microbes,' said Boss.

Water is definitely a necessary component to our form of life, however a stagnant pool of water won't produce even microbes in any prompt fashion on a cosmic scale. The moon is as big a contributor to life on Earth as its water, because of how the tide has stirred the water like no other planet we've discovered yet.

This video [google.ca] gives you an idea of how complex molecules like DNA could form over billions of years when such a large water mass is stirred so frequently and consistently. The principle is called cymatics. Google that term, and you'll find some really insightful information, as well as a lot of lofty hipster theories.

One thing's for certain, the ancient Egyptians were all over it. They surely pondered sand dune formations for eons.

Re:Water alone wont cut it (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884245)

The moon is as big a contributor to life on Earth as its water, because of how the tide has stirred the water like no other planet we've discovered yet.

That's complete woo-woo. There's absolutely no reason to believe that the moon had any effect on the emergence of life. It's a fun little theory if you're the kind of person who likes abstract art, but it's certainly not supported by any scientific evidence.

Re:Water alone wont cut it (2, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885295)

however a stagnant pool of water won't produce even microbes in any prompt fashion on a cosmic scale. The moon is as big a contributor to life on Earth as its water, because of how the tide has stirred the water like no other planet we've discovered yet.

Obviously you are unfamiliar with the concept of thermal turnover.

No tide is necessary to mix a body of water. All you need is rotation.

Nice try, though.

Is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884217)

As far as i was aware, it was nothing new to suggest that actually there are quite a lot of planets out there. We know this already from the number we've managed to find, not alot but they hint to many many more especially when you consider the selection effects, and also the arguement about there are so many stars that if even a fraction of them have planets, its a hell of alot of planets. It also seems pretty major jump to suggest that methane and/or oxygen = life, we know F all about how life begins, how it is first formed etc, so we are not really in a position to claim which planets will contain life. The only reason to assume they would have life on those conditions is because it would be even remotely similar to here, it seems similar to looking out your window, seeing a bird and deducing that that bird is present over the whole globe

Quantum Communication (1)

Microreal (1116815) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884663)

The chances are that intelligence life is trying to communicate with us thru faster than radio waves communication, like quantum datacom. Maybe when we learn how to read em? =)

Big ass planet nearby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26884803)

I think I just saw youranus, oops, I mean Uranus. Ah, forget it, it was the old lady picking up a hair roller. Too much slashdot's has my eyes going fuzzy.

The Universe according to Asimov (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26884985)

The idea of a host of extra-solar planets filled with low-order animals or plants is one that is a running theme throughout Issac Asimovs works. Very rarely does he make mention of truly alien species (The Gods themselves [wikipedia.org] showing that he could if he wanted to)
Most of his works involve habitable worlds that were either naturally suited to life or required minimal terraforming from settlers, (See Terminus [wikipedia.org] ) and to be honest, this news article just seems to glurge back what Asimov had been writing as far back as the 1940's, only without the excellent storytelling.

When you wish upon a star .... (1)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26885977)

Obviously, these guys are part of the generation that grew up believing that if you want something badly enough, someone will provide it.

It's disappointing to see otherwise intelligent scientists make so much of so little.

Before determie new planet (1)

linux87 (1470093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26886489)

I think we should protect the earth - our house before find a new planet

Just because it's big, doesn't mean there's life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26886597)

There may be life elsewhere, and there may not be.

Just because it is here, and the universe is a big place, it does not follow that life must exist elsewhere.

Any more than there must be a blue stone with my initials carved into it in some other garden on the planet simply because there is one in my garden, and conditions for it to occur in other gardens are favourable.

There is no logic to the arguments being presented for or against. The truth is we don't know, difficult as that is to accept.

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