Sunday’s ‘Comment of the Day’–“Dead Zones of the Universe” –Do They Support the ‘Rare Earth’ Theory?



The big question, of course, is: among these planets, how common is human-level intelligence? Some think that it's nigh-inevitable. While I tend to agree that it's inevitable given enough time, I think it's an unlikely result in any given ecosystem. Then again, Dr. Michio Kaku (among others) has pointed out some obstacles that a sapient species must overcome to fully mature as a species. One is ecologic change: will the species pollute its environment to the point that it becomes no longer livable? A second is war, with the development of weapons of mass destruction: will cultural hate, combined with the ability to destroy huge parcels, likewise destroy the species' habitat? A third obstacle is the galactic environment — events that are beyond the species' control.

What's to say that a sapient species won't be wiped out by anything from a meteor strike to a gamma-ray burst? These things can happen with little to no warning, and can destroy a civilization if it happens before said civilization reaches the stars. This is why I think we're probably the only sapient species in the Milky Way. There are probably others in other galaxies — and I think Triangulum is as good a place to look as Andromeda — but I'd be surprised (though only mildly so) if we were to find another in this one.

But I also think we'll find plenty of planets where we can set down colonies once we've mastered interstellar travel. (And, hopefully, we'll have worked out how to do sustainable, low-impact colonization by then, having learned the lessons of the past.)

Bob Greenwade

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[Image above and below is spiral galaxy M33, a mid-sized member of our Local Group of galaxies. M33 is also called the Triangulum Galaxy for the constellation in which it resides. About four times smaller (in radius) than our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31)].


          Messier 033 Triangulum Galaxy 09 by WISE


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