Monday, July 8, 2013

Are There Other Earths Out There and Can We Get To Them?

As we, human beings have evolved over time, our thinking processes have significantly changed.  As early land dwellers of the African Rift around 6 million years or so ago, our early ancestors were nomads who's only goal or thought process was to feed and protect oneself and one's family.  As time passed and our brains evolved, we became more logical creatures capable of many new things such as making weapons, creating a means of communication, and even exploring across the interconnected continents of what are now, Africa, Asia, and Europe.  From nomads we progressed into civilized beings who settled areas in which grew into communities, towns, and eventually mega-cities of which we are accustomed to living, commuting, or vacationing to today.  The ambition of the human race to explore our boundaries of this great Earth has showed no limits to our race across the sands of time and land.  We have endured great challenges and triumphs that have pushed our race to the limits of our very existence, but like any determined civilization we lived on to tell the tale of the history of mankind.  We lay at yet another forefront of our existence as intelligent creatures.  I'd like to think that mankind will live on for millions if not billions of years from now, but as always, time will only tell.  Will our barbaric, competitive, and overall cut-throat society evolve into a civilization that looks past our primitive mindset of hate, jealousy, and ignorance to see the light shine on such an amazing creation of which we truly are?  Each one of us is a diamond in the rough, yet few realize just how special each of us truly are.  This leads me think about Earth and just how special she really is, or is she? Is Earth apart of a rare breed of planets or one of trillions if not quadrillions of Earth-like planets in the known universe that we live in and whether we live in a multi-verse  of universes is speculation since we’ve never gone outside this realm of existence, but theoretically speaking there could be an infinite number of Earth-like planets with an infinite amount of intelligent life forms living within this multi-verse and this is absolutely mind-blowing to even ponder within our minuscule minds.
Is Earth the first, final, and only destination of the human race?  The first part of that question is quite puzzling for i do not know as much about ancient history of the human race as I should.  It comes with speculation that human beings have been inter-bred with alien races thousands of years ago to create hybrid human beings, but based on my knowledge of the subject i cannot say more simply because i am rather ignorant to the subject matter.  As we grow technologically and scientifically at such an alarming and in quite an awe-inspiring manner, one cannot help but contemplate the future inhabitants of us humans.  Will we go on to colonize space in the next half century?  It is only logical to think that in order we us as a race to live on, we must branch out from our origins just as our ancestors did millions of years ago from the African Rift.  Our planet is far too small, and our scientific advances far too advanced in terms of human life expectancy to have all of us stay on Earth forever, it just is not possible.  The question rises, who will get to go?  Will it be those who are significantly wealthy and powerful who get to branch out upon the last frontier of human exploration?  Will it be those who possess the tools and the knowledge to survive out on the wild frontier who first get to leave the gravitation grip of Earth for good? I read of a man who is designing the first stage of an interstellar space travel in which his craft will go 123,000 mph, give or take a thousand miles per hour.  I even designed a craft based off nuclear fusion and anti-matter that could maybe even surpass this speed, but anti-matter is rather expensive to produce, and even within a strong magnetic field , it is still hard to store it for long periods of time.  In order to get to a nearby star within our life-time we'd have to design and build a space-craft that traveled nearly half the speed of light.   

  t= t0/(1-v^2/c^2)^1/2

t = time observed in other reference frame on Earth
t0 = time observed by person in space
v = velocity of moving object
c= speed of light in a vacuum
So if an observer on the space craft is gone for 20 years is moving at .50c, then the solution would be
t = 20/(1-(.50c)^2/c^2)^1/2
t = 20/.75^1/2      (the c^2's cancel out during this step because .50c^2 cancels out c^2 so your left with .                          75^1/2)
t =  23 years of time elapsed on Earth, and that time grows larger for someone stationary on Earth as the space traveler moves towards the speed of light in the craft which is 186,000 miles per second.

In terms of special relativity, as one gets closer to the speed of light, one moves slower in time, yet as an object gets closer to the speed of light, the objects mass increases towards infinity as a function of velocity, yet one must accelerate and decelerate in an uniform velocity due to the gravitational forces exerted by the crafts propulsion system where acceleration can be seen as the same as gravity. Thankfully with new nuclear fusion technology, we may one day build a fusion reactor on a spacecraft that can create enough energy off from water or solar energy to create enough electricity to power lasers to start the fusion process, so that thought of interstellar travel or at least interplanetary travel isn't as far-fetched as one is led to believe.  In the end, if one is able to produce a spacecraft able that can create a magnetic field, and people are willing to procreate on board, and we have the financial backing, and the technology to do so, the stars are the limit for the human race.

What also crosses my mind quite often these days since a group of my students asked me awhile back if I thought there were Earth-like planets out there in the galaxy or universe.  I replied to them that statistics alone rules that there must be other Earth-like or habitable planets out there.  Each star has its own Goldi-Lock zone in which the temperature of a given planet is just right in which it is capable of having liquid water, which in my opinion, is a necessity for life.  I told my students that day I would go home and do the math for them to see how many Earth like planets there are in the universe, and the number is absolutely crazy.  Given the fact that not all galaxies are the same size and some are much more hostile considering there are galaxies that are in their infancy or colliding/merging with other galaxies the number is just a ballpark estimate, but here's the basic math: 6 X 10^10 habitable planets in our galaxy(60 billion) x 1x10^11(100 billion galaxies) = 6 x 10^21 possible habitable planets in the known universe.  6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible planets exist In the universe that could harbor life if they don’t already do.  Although not every habitable planet may not be suitable for us to live on, it is completely irrational to think that we could not diffuse the human race across the nearby galaxy.  In the realm of physics, matter tends to move from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration, so why shouldn't this law not apply to human beings, it seems only logical to increase the chances of the survival of us as intelligent beings?

The newly discovered exoplanet is actually about 1.5 times bigger than Earth, so it’s known as a ‘super-Earth’. The planet, KOI (Kepler Object of Interest) 172.02, is following an orbit that is well within the habitable zone of a star that is rather similar to our Sun
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