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Space and Life

The size of the universe is difficult to imagine, and it is expanding. The Hubble space telescope has spotted a spiral galaxy 45 million light-years away. One light-year is roughly 5.9 trillion miles. On today's fastest space ship it takes on average 162 days to reach Mars, 140 million miles away. To travel one light-year on the fastest space ship today would take something like 18,882 years.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is said to have 100 billion stars, or maybe 200 billion stars, or more – one of them our sun. The number of planets in our galaxy has been described as 100 billion or more.

Chemical elements on our planet Earth are not exclusive to our solar system and perhaps not exclusive to our galaxy. From the chemical elements on Earth have come life – plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. And there is a chance that chemical elements have produced life elsewhere in the universe.

Drawing from a limited perspective of the universe, from Stone Age times humans have been inclined to view their society as at the center of the universe, and they have viewed the universe as concerned especially with them. This is a view that attributes the universe as being conscious and aware similar to humans. Some of us, on the other hand, think of the universe as unfathomably large and responding to laws of physics that includes what humans are but without being especially interested in our little spot of humanity. In other words, if we mess up the physical environment that has allowed humanity to thrive the universe isn't going to forgive us and let us defy those physical realities.

Rather than counting on the universe to look after humanity, humanity needs to look out for itself, and it does so through its science.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.