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'Hundreds of Worlds' in Milky Way

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the nothing-to-eat-there-but-roddenberries dept.

Space 334

Raphael Emportu writes "BBC news is reporting that rocky planets, possibly with conditions suitable for life, may be more common than previously thought in our galaxy, a study has found. New evidence suggests more than half the Sun-like stars in the Milky Way could have similar planetary systems. There may also be hundreds of undiscovered worlds in outer parts of our Solar System, astronomers believe. Future studies of such worlds will radically alter our understanding of how planets are formed, they say."

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sweet (0)

Missing_dc (1074809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462442)

Now to find a way of this rock onto one of those.

Re:sweet (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462474)

Now to find a way of this rock onto one of those.
Just keep typing stuff like of instead of off and leaving out conjunctions like and in between rock and onto and sooner or latter someone around here is sure to get pissed off enough to help you off of this rock. Getting onto one of the others is an entirely different story.

Re:sweet (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462522)

I thought something similar. It's like in HHGTTG where they put all the hairdressers onto one ship.

Re:sweet (5, Funny)

RicardoGCE (1173519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462798)

I'm all for shipping grammar nazis off to the most distant rock available.

By the way, it's "later", not "latter" ;)

Re:sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22463348)

If you strike me down, I will only become more powerful than you can imagine!

Re:sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22463496)

Having read the parent, I see that you are correct. Latterly I've found that some people take a carefree approach to spelling and miss out words: and example of the former is to let loose with 'loose' instead of 'lose'; and an example of the latter is to say 'a couple' when they mean 'a couple of', 'write' when they mean 'write to' rather than 'write from', 'write up', 'write down', 'write in', or 'write out'.

Re:sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462986)

That's what the scientists on each of these worlds said. There is a reason we haven't been contacted by extra-terrestrial life. The normal progression of civilization is its own destruction, probably by some technology that these scientists created just before they had the technology to live offworld.

As we advance we should tread very carefully. Our galaxy *should* be littered by millions of civilizations. They all screwed up. Why do we think we won't do the same?

can we make our minds up? (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462452)

First 9, then posibly 10, then back to 9, then 8.. now we have..
"Our old view, that the Solar System had nine planets will be supplanted by a view that there are hundreds if not thousands of planets in our Solar System,"

Re:can we make our minds up? (1)

keanpedersen (1177903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462692)

Our solar system [wikipedia.org] is not the Milky Way [wikipedia.org] , just a part of it.

Re:can we make our minds up? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462712)

First 9, then posibly 10, then back to 9, then 8.. now we have..
"Our old view, that the Solar System had nine planets will be supplanted by a view that there are hundreds if not thousands of planets in our Solar System,"


The first release of Solaris was Solaris 2. This replaced SunOS 4.x. There were a number of Solaris 2.x point releases, with the last being Solaris 2.6. Solaris 7 was released in November, 1998, followed by Solaris 8 in 2000, Solaris 9 in 2002, and Solaris 10 in 2005.

Although Sun's marketing dept. sometimes comes up with fucked version numbering conventions, the progression is actually quite linear.

Re:can we make our minds up? (2, Informative)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462830)

Indeed - the article also says:

Some astronomers believe there may be hundreds of small rocky bodies in the outer edges of our own Solar System, and perhaps even a handful of frozen Earth-sized worlds.

So it's reasonable that any Earth-sized bodies would be considered as new planets, but "handful" doesn't seem to account for "hundreds if not thousands".

Then again, I'm amused that this guy still seems to insist that there are 9 planets in our solar system, so either he slept through the recent decision, or he disagrees with it, and in both cases it's consistent that if Pluto is a planet, all those hundreds of other small rocky bodies should be too...

No shit. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462476)

No shit that there are other planets like ours out there. The incomprehensibly massive scale of the universe dictates it to be true, statistically-speaking.

Today, children receive next to no education in the field of astronomy. Were they to have a proper understanding of what lies beyond Pluto, they'd probably grow up to realize how silly it is to believe that there is only one planet like Earth.

Re:No shit. (1, Redundant)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462656)

Yeah, "hundreds" seems like an understatement. There are uncountable trillions out there, millions in our own galaxy.

Re:No shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462702)

Universe > Galaxy

Re:No shit. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462854)

Universe > Galaxy

Yeah, no shit. Although the article limits itself to just our galaxy, why should we? To ignore the greater universe, and the trillions upon trillions of galaxies that exist in it, is just plain stupid.

Re:No shit. (2, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463084)

No shit that there are other planets like ours out there. The incomprehensibly massive scale of the universe dictates it to be true, statistically-speaking.
9 * 10^21 stars.

It's big, but it's not so big.

Imagine we discover:

That the chance of a star to have planets is one in a million. Doesn't seem impossible, does it?

The chance of a star with planets to have one at the correct distance (taking star heat in consideration) to be between 0 and 100 C, one in a billion.

The chance of a planet in the correct position to have water. One in a million.

So, we still have nine planets. Now, cross your fingers that one of those is not radioactive, doesn't show the same side to the star (that happens quite often), is big enough to have enough gravity to hold an atmosphere, etc.

I've just invented the chance of those conditions to present, but they are not unreasonable. The universe is actually not so big when each of the very many conditions we need remove a chunk of it.

Re:No shit. (4, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463224)

That the chance of a star to have planets is one in a million. Doesn't seem impossible, does it? The survey of the closest stars around our solar system seem to contradict this. I don't have exact numbers, but too many planets were discovered within a 50 light-years radius to conclude that only one star in a million has a planet.

Of course the Earth could be located in a statistical anomaly within the Milky Way, but if you posit a uniform repartition of planets, there has to be more.

I am just nit-picking however. I fully agree with the rest of your post.

Re: bad guess (5, Insightful)

Jeremy_Bee (1064620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463512)

I disagree. I understand the argument you are trying to make, but your "1 in a million" suggestions are really more akin to wild stabs at the biggest number you can think of, than they are reasonable guesses. 1:1000000 is really an unusually small ratio, and not as common as you intimate. It certainly has no actual relation to the situations that present themselves in the formula.

You can't simply spout a bunch of hyperbole and expect to be taken seriously. Especially in reply to an article that attempts to actually determine those numbers and percentages based on facts. This kind of talk is really no different from the comedy statement that "90% of people know that you can prove anything with statistics." It's meaningless.

While we will likely have to wait a whole lot longer for meaningful answers to the Drake equation, attempts at putting fact-based numbers on the variables should be applauded, and discounting them with what amounts to emotional hyperbole should be discouraged IMO.

Re:No shit. (1)

Angry Toad (314562) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463524)

They are totally unreasonable in just about every sense. Learn some basic astronomy before pulling "calculations" out of your ass.

Well, it's nice to have a destination... (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462482)

Now, if we only had some means of reaching it...

The speed of light is a barrier like few the humanity has ever found.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462718)

A far bigger barrier is to exist at all.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462742)

And to be intelligent on top of that.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462796)

And to be intelligent on top of that.
That barrier is so high that most humanity never got to surpass it.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (3, Funny)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462874)

And have caek

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (2, Funny)

TheAngryIntern (785323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463244)

the caek is a lie

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (4, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462908)

The probability for intelligence seems to me to be the biggest hurdle. That humans are intelligent at all seems nothing more than a genetic fluke, and not a guaranteed outcome.

However, given our understanding for life, and how it evolved, it would seem that complex life forms would probably NOT be rare at all.

The biggest hurdles for human-like intelligence probably includes the following:

1. Self replicating molecules. I'm not sure how precise the conditions for getting life started are, but it probably isn't something we would see very often.
2. Conditions remaining stable for those molecules for a very long time.
3. Symbiotic relationships developing between organisms. (requirement for multi-cellular life)
4. The creativity mutation. (for lack of a better term.)

In between, it seems that the process of natural selection would be the driving factor, but those 4 items listed are probably the most important 'leaps'.

With regard to the creativity mutation: As I recall, there was a proto-human homonid that DID use tools, but never developed on that tool (The stone axe they used at the beginning of their existance was the same stone axe that they used at the end of their existance) And that period of time wasn't short, something on the order of millions of years where they used the exact stone axe. While they were using a tool, there was no real thought behind it. In that respect, it seems that it was much like a spider's web, a very precise tool for survival but instinct rather than a developed idea.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463180)

That humans are intelligent at all seems nothing more than a genetic fluke, and not a guaranteed outcome.

Given sufficient time, all things possible are inevitable.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (4, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463390)

With regard to the creativity mutation: As I recall, there was a proto-human homonid that DID use tools, but never developed on that tool (The stone axe they used at the beginning of their existance was the same stone axe that they used at the end of their existance) And that period of time wasn't short, something on the order of millions of years where they used the exact stone axe.

I believe the specific hominid you are referring to is Homo Ergaster (Working Man).

While they were using a tool, there was no real thought behind it. In that respect, it seems that it was much like a spider's web, a very precise tool for survival but instinct rather than a developed idea.

I don't know if I agree with that assessment. It seems to me as if H. Ergaster simply progressed as far as his brain would allow, and no farther. A simple hand axe was just the apex of his ability. Looking at H. Ergaster makes me rather worried about the future of our species...after all, we haven't been around nearly as long. What if we run up against an innate limit in our brains, and our technology can proceed no further?

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462776)

It could be a bigger barrier getting everyone to stop playing Solar System of Warcraft long enough to get onboard the faster than light vessel... unless perhaps they have an exclusive SSoW expansion pack onboard the ship.. hmm..

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (2, Insightful)

Mordaximus (566304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462838)

Not much bigger than the 'Earth is flat' barrier. It's only a matter of time before we reach the necessary level of understanding.

Energy is the issue (4, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462856)

The speed of light is not a deal-breaker. It means that, from *our* perspective, we'll send people to distant planets and never hear from them again. But from their perspective, it may be a few years. If interstellar travel actually happens, then the speed of light issue is just a managable logistical issue. It means that space-farers must be able to think for themselves. They already must be self-sufficient in other respects.

If there is a deal-breaker, then it is contruction and propulsion of such a craft. The vaster the craft, then the more unlikely it's construction. We might be able to fire ourselves off in a single direction, but how do we slow down, and what if we need to change course. If we need to come home, then we've doubled the energy required!

Then there are complex issues with people - our fragile minds and bodies. How do we react to the stress of space-travel, can we do it?

The speed of light seems like a comparatively simple issue.

Re:Energy is the issue (3, Interesting)

schiefaw (552727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463438)

Navigation may be an issue:

Holly: Look, we're travelling faster than the speed of light. That means, by the time we see something, we've already passed through it. Even with an IQ of 6000, it's still brown trousers time.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (1, Insightful)

ewoods (108845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462904)

Stargate. It's true. It was created as a cover-up of the truth. And when that was found out, they made it into a plot-line of an episode.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462972)

The speed of light is a barrier like few the humanity has ever found.

Imagine if you would a cure to aging or a method to remain in stasis for hundreds or thousands of years. Once we get that out of the way, traveling to another solar system isn't that far fetched. It is suspect there is enough material in the vacuum of space between systems that could help refuel a fast traveling vessel to keep propulsion up and since there is no weather or space bacteria (that we know of) erosion and decay won't be much of a problem.

Now, granted ones who take such a trip will most likley never see their home planet again or those who they left behind so it will take a brave bunch to spend those long times in stasis or simply entertaining themselves with what ever VR or holodeck they have in the future.

I remember reading an article that if humans could at least travel close to the speed of light and sent ships from one planet to all the closest they could colonize and the repeat that the Galaxy could be colonized in about 1 million years. Now that seems a lot for us, but astronomically that is a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions of years it took nature to evolve intelligent life.

Now if people like Aubrey de Grey [wikipedia.org] do acheive their goals of life extension then traveling thousands of years may not be that big of a deal for humans in the future.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463144)

if humans could at least travel close to the speed of light
If humans could travel at speeds close to c, we wouldn't need to have immortality. The slowness of time would allow the travelers to reach the stars in a normal lifespan.

Re:Well, it's nice to have a destination... (1)

Petersson (636253) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463482)

If humans could travel at speeds close to c, we wouldn't need to have immortality. The slowness of time would allow the travelers to reach the stars in a normal lifespan.

Agreed. Lot of years ago, just for a peace of mind, I programmed a simple simulation which confirmed that.

If the person travelling would calculate his/her speed from time*engine thrust/ship mass, he/she would discover that there's no light speed limit for the traveller. With enough thrust for adequate acceleration and deceleration, the travel to Alfa Centauri would take few months - from traveller's point of view. On Earth, and on Alfa Centauri also, much more than just 4 years would pass.

What a pity Einstein didn't know The Ludicrous speed.

Not so Rare Earth (5, Insightful)

sgbett (739519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462484)

Interesting, considering that just last night I was watching a documentary, on BBC4 no less, about rare earth theory and how miraculous it was that the conditions on earth are as they are.

Funny but, I couldn't shake the feeling that the reason conditions here on earth are so 'perfect' for life as we know it was more to do with life as we know it evolving to fit the conditions ...

Re:Not so Rare Earth (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462530)

Funny but, I couldn't shake the feeling that the reason conditions here on earth are so 'perfect' for life as we know it was more to do with life as we know it evolving to fit the conditions ...
No, no! Can't you see? Earth is incredibly rare! Too rare to be a coincidence. Nope, must've been an Intelligent Designer that created life. Probably about 6,000 years or so ago. Yep.

Heh. This new information kinda blows a hole in that theory, huh?

Re:Not so Rare Earth (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462778)

This new information kinda blows a hole in that theory, huh?

Yes, but His Spaghettiness is most forgiving. May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage forever. Hang on, that sounds a bit like icky things Japanese do with tentacles... oh second thoughts...

Re:Not so Rare Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22463040)

FSM == Cthulhu.

Re:Not so Rare Earth (1, Funny)

Viceroy Potatohead (954845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463462)

What a quaint and backward notion! There was no Intelligent Designer who created life [scoff], it was an Intelligent Astronomer who placed our planet in the perfect spot for life to form on its own. Of course, there are some indications that it was actually an Intelligent Particle Physicist who started it all off, so there are obviously many more discoveries to be made in the field of Intelligent Science.

But an Intelligent Designer? Piffle! He just hung the drapes and painted the place. And the bastard didn't even let us select our own wallpaper.

Re:Not so Rare Earth (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462666)

Exactly, as well as the simple fact that if conditions weren't suitable for life here, there would be none of us here to remark on how suitable conditions are for life.

An entire documentary based on a retarded truism. How depressing.

Re:Not so Rare Earth (2, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462746)

Yes, this is known as the Anthropic Principle [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Not so Rare Earth (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462922)

"Exactly, as well as the simple fact that if conditions weren't suitable for life here, there would be none of us here to remark on how suitable conditions are for life."

Let me fix that for you: "Exactly, as well as the simple fact that if conditions weren't suitable for life here, there would be none of us here in our current form to remark on how suitable conditions are for life.

If conditions were different, it doesn't mean that life (even intelligent life) wouldn't exist. Now let's all welcome our hard-shell antenna-waving alien overlords ...

Re:Not so Rare Earth (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463074)

I didn't say 'if conditions were different'. I said 'if conditions weren't suitable for life'. If conditions were different, but still suitable enough for life, we would look different, but would still be waxing poetic about how marvelously well-suited this environment is for us.

The OP nailed it - the conditions here are perfect for us because here is where we developed, evolving along the way to fit our conditions perfectly. There's nothing remarkable about it.

Re:Not so Rare Earth (1)

PopeJM (956574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463350)

You mention that living organisms have changed the Earth. After Europeans began to populate the Americas, the earthworm was introduced into the environment. Supposedly that alone changed the face of the entire continent in a few hundred years.

Aquatic life? (1)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462512)

Wouldn't it be feasible that intelligent life could arise on a planet that is liquid? As long as the temperature of the liquid is sufficiently stable, there are sufficient chemical building blocks and there is not too much current, single cell organisms and then multi cell organisms could emerge.. Or am I wrong?

Anyhow, cool to hear that being the third rock from the sun is nothing special.

Re:Aquatic life? (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462576)

Wouldn't it be feasible that intelligent life could arise on a planet that is liquid?

Complex life, certainly. Intelligent ... I'm not so sure, probably depends on your definition of intelligence. Complex social structures and communication ? Possible. Tool use ? I'd say that is less probable. In an aquatic environment, fins beat tool-compatible appendages any day.

Re:Aquatic life? (4, Informative)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462724)

Not every day or time, it all comes down to in which environment it has to survive. And we have examples of tool-compatible appendages in aquatic life here on earth: the octopus that can open plastic bottles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfRqYjv9QgA [youtube.com] . And then there are other aqautic life that seems to do very well without fins such as crustaceans.

Re:Aquatic life? (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463062)

Octopuses are on my "Do not eat because they're too darned bright." list and have been there for awhile. I think uplift experiments involving them would be very interesting. :-)

sponge bob (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463158)

i thought for sure that would be a link to sponge bob ...

Can't make tools under water..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462970)



Also, you can't smelt metal under water.
Any intellegent life that evolves under water will be literally stuck in the stone age.

Aquatic post-stone age is improbable (2, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463018)

While tool use is certainly probable in an aquatic species that evolved intelligence, I would doubt that any such species would progress past the stone age in terms of technology. However, they may evolve a very advanced society, afterall, the Ancient Egyptians and Mayan cultures also were just progressing out of the stone-age yet they had highly advanced societies.

Why would they be limited to the stone age? If you assume that they are fully aquatic and not amphibian-like then they would lack one of the major requirements for progression beyond the stone age. Fire. Granted I may be taking a short sighted view of this, but without easy access to fire, it would be VERY difficult for such a society to develop anything beyond basic stone age tools.

I suppose it would be possible for them to utilize a volcano as a source of energy to smelt metals. But I would imagine that smelting in an aquatic environment would have some severe drawbacks. (even if we ignore the problem associated with oxidation of metals)

Re:Aquatic post-stone age is improbable (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463168)

What about volcanic hot-spots? Seems like there would be enough heat there to do some smelting.....just like on the surface, the location and use of resources becomes the reason for wars.

Layne

Re:Aquatic post-stone age is improbable (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463394)

Without a doubt I think it would be a possiblity, but I'm not sure what changes would have to be made to the smelting process to produce something usable. While metallurgy isn't my area of expertise I can work through the process a bit to see where some problems would occur with an underwater smelting operation.

It isn't sufficient to just have a heat source to smelt, if you just heat up the ore you would end up with melted ore. There is actually a chemical reaction taking place, mainly it is the use of carbon to bind the Oxygen in the form of CO2. The basic reaction is Ore+Carbon+energy = Metal + CO2.

While it would be possible to introduce an ore and carbon to a heat source (500 degrees should be sufficient for Tin or Lead) The water vapor and CO2 being produced would result in an unstable environment. It would be like a lot of little explosions going off while you are trying to direct the flow of a liquid.

This would assume that they would actually KNOW that they could smelt in the first place. For humans, it was likely that our ancestors built a campfire on a lead ore (which you really can't tell is lead ore just by looking at it w/o a knowledge of chemistry). The carbon from the campfire and the higher temperature is just right to smelt lead/tin. Repeat several thousand times and eventually an intelligent human figured out that they could repeat the process.

Underwater, campfires don't happen very often. (That just raises further questions!)

Re:Aquatic life? (1)

PMBjornerud (947233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462636)

You're basically describing how life got started on earth.

Sure, there are many others (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Origin_of_life), but I think that is the most commonly accepted one.

Re:Aquatic life? (5, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462638)

Wouldn't it be feasible that intelligent life could arise on a planet that is liquid?

Our own earthly cephalopods are pretty darned smart. Given the right conditions, it's not difficult to imagine a similar species attaining greater intelligence. Of course, such an intelligence, having developed in such an alien environment, would be radically different from ours. As Larry Niven says, there are brains out there that think just as well as yours...but differently.

Also, although an aquatic species could conceivably develop intelligence, I can't imagine what form its technology would take. With such elementary things as fire denied to them, it's doubtful that they could progress to any reasonable level.

They played us for suckers! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462768)

Our own earthly cephalopods are pretty darned smart. Given the right conditions, it's not difficult to imagine a similar species attaining greater intelligence. Of course, such an intelligence, having developed in such an alien environment, would be radically different from ours. As Larry Niven says, there are brains out there that think just as well as yours...but differently.

Squid, cuttlefish, and other similarly baleful creatures are all members of the cephalopod family, characterized by HUGE EYES, BEAKS, INTELLIGENCE, and AMBITION. [qwantz.com]

Re:Aquatic life? (1)

laejoh (648921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462984)

Only one thing comes to my mind:

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Re:Aquatic life? (4, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462674)

As long as the temperature of the liquid is sufficiently stable, there are sufficient chemical building blocks and there is not too much current, single cell organisms and then multi cell organisms could emerge..

      Depends on how you define "intelligence". Our liquids are certainly teeming with intelligent life. Life itself apparently began in our oceans. Fish are certainly very smart - they feed themselves, find mates, defend territory, build defensive structures, some species live and travel in social groups, etc. These are all signs of "intelligence". Then if you want to cheat a bit and look at the ocean mammals - seals, porpoises, whales, these are extremely intelligent aquatic beings.

      Arthur C. Clarke, however, argued that CIVILIZATION, however, could not evolve in an aquatic environment, for the simple reason that you cannot have fire underwater. His interesting theory claims that fire, and our control of fire - has been a driving force in our technology. First the fire we would use for slash and burn agriculture - which while being devastating for the environment over the long term gave many short term advantages to the primitive farmer. Fire to make steam is what drove the industrial revolution. And that same power is still in use today, though we get our "fire" in the form of Uranium, or by burning fossil fuels. Then there is the "fire" from the sky - electricity. Harnessing this particular "fire" would be pretty tricky underwater.

      I guess it's an interesting concept to play with, and surely there are many possibilities that we biased, land dwelling humans could never dream of, but I respect Mr. Clarke and his idea. I think it would be difficult for an aquatic civilization to arise here or anywhere else.

Re:Aquatic life? (5, Interesting)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462878)

There are plenty of volcanoes under the water here on Earth. Could those serve as a source of fire?

Perhaps primitive marine creatures would realize that some sort of algae-like food source grows better in the warmer waters around these "glowing liquid not-water" sources and start building walls around them to hold in that temperature. Sort of like farming - but with algae instead of regular "crops". This would give them a stable food source and they could get to thinking about other things.

Re:Aquatic life? (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463498)

Volcanoes are not actually fire, but they would be a good source of heat. For bonus thought-experiment points, imagine a volcano based steel foundry that does not cook the aquatic operators. There are many very difficult problems to solve. Personally, I can imagine solutions, but not how the solutions might be developed.

not very wrong (3, Informative)

dominux (731134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462750)

a planet would not be 100% uniform liquid at room temperature. You don't get planet sized blobs of water. Our planet is a lot of liquid around a fairly small probably solid iron core. The most common liquid component of planet earth by a long way is magma. The solid rock crust and liquid water in the seas is so insignificant by comparison it is surprising we even bother to talk about it. Anyhow what you were probably thinking about is a planet with a surface completely covered by liquid water or something like it. I think something could arise on such a planet, at the surface (or possibly below it if we are allowed to assume a hot core with volcanic vents.) You could get algae mats forming and sinking when they die off. Huge floating mats could then provide an ecosystem for other things to evolve around. At some point there could be fishlike animals under the mats and amphibious creatures walking on top of the mats. I can't see any real limit to the size and stability of the floating mats. Any creature looking to develop technology would have to use organic materials, which makes electronics a bit tricky. In terms of leaving the planet, fuel and a launch pad wouldn't be too tricky, building the rocket might be though.

Re:not very wrong (3, Interesting)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462978)

From what I hear, our best chances of finding life in our solar system is Europa. It's a giant ice ball, but beneath a thin ice shelf, there's thought to be an ocean very similar to Earth's ocean in chemistry, that's about 100km deep. Other major possibilities include Mars and Venus, both of whom have environments we've already found can support some Earth-born forms of life. We suspect Mars may have supported multi-cellular life in the past, but Europa has the best chances of supporting it today.

Re:not very wrong (3, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463038)

The problems with technology that regular aquatic races have would be even worse on Europa. Imagine an explorer trying to see what was beyond that great ice wall at the top of the world. After managing to chisel through miles of ice, the intrepid explorer would be rewarded with a quick death by blowout as the tunnel opened out onto the surface...in vacuum.

I don't think we're going to be seeing many Europan astronauts anytime soon.

Re:not very wrong (2, Informative)

kels (9845) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462996)

The most common liquid component of planet earth by a long way is magma. The solid rock crust and liquid water in the seas is so insignificant by comparison it is surprising we even bother to talk about it.

The Earth's mantle is a crystalline solid, with only tiny isolated pockets of magma. There is no vast magma ocean. The lower mantle is subjected to pressures that can keep it solid well above 2000 degree C. Much of the mantle deforms over millions of years, but it is not liquid.

The biggest liquid component of the Earth is undoubtedly the outer core, which is mainly molten iron.

Re:Aquatic life? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462954)

Its been posited that life (including intelligent life) could be possible on the surface of a brown dwarf, using exotic chemistries, "helped along" by the much higher gravity. We just don't know, and we may never know.

TFA is confused... (5, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462544)

... there may be hundreds of worlds in the solar system. In the Milky Way, expect trillions. The distinction between the Solar System and the Galaxy is a subtle one, similar to that between a grain of sand and Saudi Arabia, so it's easy for the likes of the BBC to confuse the two.

Re:TFA is confused... (1)

rjcobain (1095583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462640)

maybe they need to employ someone who actually knows about science to write these stories

Re:TFA is confused... (1)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462988)

Your biased, you're still pissed off at them for the flying Daleks.

Re:TFA is confused... (1)

trash eighty (457611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463142)

... there may be hundreds of worlds in the solar system. In the Milky Way, expect trillions. The distinction between the Solar System and the Galaxy is a subtle one, similar to that between a grain of sand and Saudi Arabia, so it's easy for the likes of the BBC to confuse the two.
The TFA isn't confused at all, the summary on slashdot is though.

Re:TFA is confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22463216)

RTFA There is only one world in our solar system and you live on it. The are probably hundred if not thousands or millions of world in our GALAXY (the Milky Way). There are probably millions to trillions of worlds in the UNIVERSE. I think I learned this stuff in grammar school. Where was the original poster?

OMG There Are Planets in Space!!!!! (1)

johnsie (1158363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462548)

Zzzzzzzzzzzz.......... We already know there are planets. When someone actually finds a planet with life on it then that might actually be worthy of making the news.

Drake Equation (3, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462558)

Given hundreds of worlds within our own galaxy, if we apply the Drake Equation [wikipedia.org] , there's a good chance that there's another intelligent species out there, although the chances of it being of a sufficient technological development to make its presence known is slim. Also, the 'accepted values' for the various parts of the Drake equation are subject to (sometimes intense) debate.

This being said, given that most of these "nearby" worlds are tens of thousands of light-years away, with the current state of our technology, we might as well be alone.

Re:Drake Equation (1)

Guerilla* Napalm (762317) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462630)

We screwed up our planet, kill each other, and Paris Hilton is on the planet. Any sufficiently advanced civilization out there will prove their superiority by never visiting Earth.

Re:Drake Equation (1)

wnknisely (51017) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463010)

Right, and now the "Fermi Paradox" [wikipedia.org] suddenly become much more interesting. If there's a strong likelihood of other life out there, where in the heck are they? Why haven't they contacted us?

Re:Drake Equation (1)

howdoesth (1132949) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463282)

Right, and now the "Fermi Paradox" [wikipedia.org] suddenly become much more interesting. If there's a strong likelihood of other life out there, where in the heck are they? Why haven't they contacted us?
How would they know where we were to initiate contact? The biggest footprint we leave to the universe, our radio communications, doesn't even make it to Proxima Centauri before getting drowned out by background noise.

Re:Drake Equation (2, Interesting)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463308)

No. No it isn't. The Drake Equation is just a crock - it expresses something we have no data for in terms of a bunch of variables... that we have NO DATA FOR. People just guess the numbers and say "My God, there probably IS life out there!" But the fact remains that the numbers used in the Drake equations (at least some of them) are guesses. Maybe n_e is 0.01, or maybe it's 1/(#planets in universe).

Using "Accepted values" for the Drake Equation are like using accepted values for the age of the earth taken from the bible - eg "the accepted age is 6000 years, so bang goes your dinosaur idea!"

Now who knows, maybe in 200 years we'll have some reasonable bounds on these variables. But for now we have nothing.

How common were they before? (2, Funny)

Joohn (310344) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462562)

...planets, possibly with conditions suitable for life, may be more common than previously thought...
I have heard this so many times that I'm losing track on how common we previously thought they were.

" may be more common than previously thought" (1)

ThomasCR (768602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462650)

Yes, and the Global Warming is more severe than previously thought, we hear every so often.
In realty it's colder than last year and the Universe have less habitable solar systems than we were told last year.

- Thomas

I, for one, (1)

biased_estimator (1222498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462662)

welcome out new United Federation of Planets overlords...

How meny of them have stargates on them? (2, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462676)

so we can go to them?

I wonder then... (2)

Urger (817972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462696)

If there are only hundreds of earthlike planets what are the extra Stargate addresses for?

Re:I wonder then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462956)

Movie spin-offs.

And all of them are ours (3, Funny)

barzok (26681) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462752)

except Europa. I'll not be attempting any landings there.

Aren't the odds stacked against us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22462858)

If we assume that the life we know started it's existence on earth, than the odds seem pretty damning. All known life on earth very likely comes from one source. It all has DNA and other similarities. After all these billions of years that life could come to exist on earth, it may have only happened exactly once.

Then you look at lifeforms that do live here. There are many creatures that come out of that one source. However, we can barely communicate with any of them. We have some basic communication abilities with some other mammals, but that's about it.

So even if we can visit millions of planets like earth, what would the chance be that we would find life in any meaningful sense?

Of course, if life did start it's existance on earth, chances could be better. But still, even if the universe was crawling with other life from the same source, the chance of finding one that we can communicate with in a good way seems very remote.

Well, According To Bugs Bunny (1)

Skeetskeetskeet (906997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462894)

Every planet has air suitable for breathing and living...even Mars has breathable air, Bugs proved that several times!! Let's go!!

We get what we deserve..... (1)

blankoboy (719577) | more than 6 years ago | (#22462928)

So, instead of humanity spending trillions of dollars on exploring the galaxy we opt for killing our own species to hell and back. If an Armageddon asteroid, zombie outbreak or other humanity ending event occurs I will have no sympathy for us. We are collectively imbeciles.

But do we want them? (2, Interesting)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463002)

The question is whether we want to have any planets. From Earth, for example, you could construct 10000000 rotating hollow cylinders, 1000x1000km each, with reasonable gravity, perfect weather, safety from radiation, and sustainability for billions of years. The total usable area will be 1e11 square km, 196 times larger than the Earth. It is also portable and redundant, ensuring that the entire civilization is not wiped out by an asteroid. It can remain usable after the Sun burns out; you can install a fusion generator and mine Jupiter for fuel for a very very long time. So tell me again why we need a planet?

Re:But do we want them? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463178)

From Earth, for example, you could construct...

Yeah, if you don't mind disassembling the whole planet. The NIMBY people would be all over you and, frankly, I would join them on this one.

Re:But do we want them? (2, Informative)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463376)

> Yeah, if you don't mind disassembling the whole planet.

Why should you mind? I'm not necessarily talking about disassembling Earth. We could start with Venus and Mars.

> The NIMBY people would be all over you and, frankly, I would join them on this one.

Why? The planetoids will not be anywhere near your back yard. In fact, if you stay on Earth, you don't even need to be aware of their existence. They'll be so far, you will not even be able to see them without a huge telescope. And it isn't like you have any particular use for Mars and Venus now. Both are uninhabitable, and while Mars might be terraformable, it is much easier to just plunk down a few beanstalks and turn it into a planetoid farm.

Re:But do we want them? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463426)

The post didn't say "from Mars and Venus". It said, "from Earth," a planet in which I have some ownership rights.

BTW, I think that Venus will be more terraformable than Mars.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22463054)

Future studies of such worlds will radically alter our understanding of how planets are formed, they say."

What worlds? They haven't actually found any, yet. Articles like these are always well-larded with "may", "could" and other hopeful terms. Then they go on to idealize the future.

Re:Huh? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463212)

Um, they have found a lot of these (273 candidates this morning), and most of them are not in Solar System type... solar systems. That is indeed having a profound effect on research into planet formation.

our understanding... (1)

brunoacf (1186539) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463068)

Future studies of such worlds will radically alter our understanding of how planets are formed

"All That Is Solid Melts Into Air"

This statement (from Marx, I think) fits perfectly in our understanding of the universe.

Doesn't Anyone Read TFA ? (2, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463078)

Apparently not, even at the BBC. What they were saying is that there could be hundreds of worlds in the solar system, not in the galaxy. (They meant in the Kuiper belt, far outside of Pluto and Neptune.)

We have already found 273 extra-solar planets [obspm.fr] in the galaxy. No one doubts now that there are millions, if not billions, in the galaxy, and a puling "hundreds" of Earth type planets in the galaxy would strike most people following this research as a very low estimate.

From the article : "Some astronomers believe there may be hundreds of small rocky bodies in the outer edges of our own Solar System, and perhaps even a handful of frozen Earth-sized worlds."

I would also regard this as almost not news at all, given the rapid rate of discovery of TNOs [harvard.edu] (Trans Neptunian Objects), three of which so far are the size of Pluto or larger.

Scientists or reporters writing these articles? (1)

NetNinja (469346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463184)

Seriously, to think Earth is or could be the only planet capable of sustaining life is highly improbable.
I am going to go out on a limb here and say, there is inteligent life out there and we are not ready to meet it.
Or ready or not we better grow up and deal with it because we just became as insignificant as a grain of sand.
These articles seem like they are written for those sensationalist magazines, let's write in more grown up terms.
Think people are insane now? wait when you tell them aliens have landed on our planet.

Discovery Channel (1)

Stachel (718095) | more than 6 years ago | (#22463294)

From TFA:

BBC news [...] possibly [...] may be [...] suggests [...] could have [...] may [...] believe. [...] they say.
I didn't read the study nor the article from the BBC news, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were written by the same guys who are on the staff of the Discovery 'Artificial Drama and Speculation' Channel.
How is this news?

Anyone else.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22463332)

..come to this thread thinking it was about the milky way chocolate?

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