Have you ever wondered if we are alone?
Alone in the universe I mean. Have you ever looked up at the stars at night and wondered who else could be out there? So often we are concerned with what is down here. We see cars and trams pass by. Occasionally we look up from our phones to the skyline of our city, but how often do we really turn our heads all the way up at night and look at the stars and worlds beyond?
I always used to think about the stars as a kid. My dad is a total space nerd, and I think his interest rubbed off on me. For a while all I could think about was the idea that someone else was out there. The universe is massive, infinitely expanding, there has got to be someone else out among the stars. Imagine what it would be like if we found someone else, or if someone found us.
I’m still captivated by this idea, and one of my favorite movies, Arrival with Amy Adams, tries to answer this question. Adams’ character is a linguist who is tasked with interpreting the language of Earth’s newest residents, and ultimately finding out if they will live in harmony with or destroy us.
But it’s 2018 and we are still the only known planet in the universe with intelligent life. Maybe our technology is limited, but nobody has found us either. Sure we have found evidence of microbial life forms on other planets, but there is nothing like Earth. We are this beautiful blue and green ball in the midst of this massive solar system, perfectly placed at a distance close enough to the sun to let us absorb its glorious warmth while keeping us far enough from it to prevent Earth from being a scorched, lifeless, wasteland. No other planet in our solar system teams with life like Earth. They have mountains and valleys that lie empty. No animals running around, no rivers rushing to meet the ocean, no sparrows searching for a tree on which to rest. As our telescopes scan the galaxies beyond our own we cannot see anything like our Earth. Why?
I was struck by a fascinating article that I read a couple of years ago that showed how incredible the odds against life are in this universe. The article explained that with roughly one octillion planets in the universe (that’s 1 followed by 27 zeros), it is only logical to think that there has to be at least one planet like us out there. But when we examine the 200 requirements that have to be perfectly met for a planet to produce and sustain life, it becomes clear that the probability for life is so low that even the planet we know should not exist.
And yet there is life here on this beautiful blue and green ball. And not just life but intelligent life. Life that asks the question: who made all of this?