Nautilus

Is Life Special Just Because It’s Rare?

A rocket powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen and carrying a scientific observatory blasted off into space at 10:49 p.m., March 6, 2009 (by local calendars and clocks). The launch came from the third planet out from a G-type star, 25,000 light-years from the center of a galaxy called the Milky Way, itself located on the outskirts of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. On the night of the launch, the sky was clear, with no precipitation or wind, and the temperature was 292 degrees by the absolute temperature scale. Local intelligent life forms cheered the launch. Shortly before the blastoff, the government agency responsible for spacecraft, named the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, wrote in the global network of computers: “We are looking at a gorgeous night to launch the Kepler observatory on the first-ever mission dedicated to finding planets like ours outside the solar system.”

A grain of sand: The Gobi Desert has an area of 500,000 square miles. If it represents all of the matter in the cosmos, then living matter is the equivalent of a single grain of sand.Adrienc / Getty Images

The above account might have been written by an intelligent life form located on exactly the kind of distant planet that Kepler would soon begin to search

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus12 min read
Why We’re Patriotic: Whether it’s our country or our football team, we need to belong.
It started with one man quietly sipping a Tom Collins in the lounge car of the Cleveland-bound train. “God bless America,” he sang, “land that I love …” It didn’t take long. Others joined in. “Stand beside her … and guide her ...” Soon the entire tra
Nautilus10 min readSelf-Improvement
Playing Video Games Makes Us Fully Human: No other media meets our emotional and social needs like electronic games.
I have an agonizing decision to make. Should I save a governing body that has never done a thing for me? It doesn’t even contain a single person from my race. The aliens of the galactic Council decided long ago that my people should not be trusted, t
Nautilus5 min read
The Dr. Strange of the American Revolution
I ascribe the Success of our Revolution to a Galaxy,” Benjamin Rush wrote to John Adams, in 1812. He wasn’t invoking the astrological. It was commonplace then to associate a bright assembly of people with the starry band in the night sky that Chaucer