25. Where did I come from, mummy?
by, 17-02-10 at 23:02 (1026 Views)
To get things into perspective, if one could catch a space rocket and travel from one side of the known universe to the other, travelling at 300,000 kilometres a second, the journey would take 156 thousand million years. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a mere speck of dust in this vastness, our solar system a tiny dot in the galaxy. The entire human existence is a nothing; a mere blip in the passage of biological time which began on earth about 3,800 million years ago. Where it came from is unknown. Even our next-door neighbour galaxy, Andromeda, is some two million light years away - meaning it would take two million years for a signal to get there, travelling at the speed of light. Mankind’s biggest and best rocket would be lucky to do 300,000 km in 6 hours - let alone a second. And think of the luggage that would be needed to emigrate to Andromeda, not to mention sandwiches.
Closer to home, in the confines of our own galaxy, our nearest star is Proxima Centauri which is just over 4 light years distant. This means that if light travels at 300,000 kilometres in one second, our nearest neighbouring star is 40 million million kilometres away. Of all the space probes shot into space from earth four are travelling fast enough to escape the sun’s gravitational pull. In 2020, 10 years hence, Voyager 2 will have covered 0.05% of the distance to Proxima Centauri, probably doing a mere 17 kilometres a second. So it will, most likely, reach the star in about 80,000 years.
There are at least 1000 million stars in our galaxy. A star is like our sun – though many dwarf the sun - they are too hot (infernos of nuclear fission) to support any sort of life. The only hope for life to establish itself would be on a planet, perhaps similar to our own. Current estimates suggest that planets orbit perhaps half of these stars, a huge number, so somewhere there must be one somewhat like Earth. Earth orbits at just the right distance from the furnace of our sun to support life. Even here there are life forms that thrive in extremes of temperature from the coldest of cold to the intense heat of hydrothermal vents. Some “thermophiles”, as such creatures are named, can only reproduce at temperatures above 90°c. Some live deep underground without air or water or drawing their energy from the sun. So life may exist under a wide variety of extreme conditions.
If there is another intelligent life form out there, are they just too far away to contemplate humanity ever being able to make contact? Could it be that Life Force permeates all of space - as fungal, bacterial and viral spores saturate every cubic centimetre of the air we breathe?
Every organism that has ever lived is part of the same evolutionary story. The oldest known lived about 3,800 million years ago. They were discovered in sedimentary rocks in Greenland. How did it all begin? Long before hydrothermal vents were discovered Swedish chemist Svante Athenius suggested that life on earth arrived as a sort of bacteria that might have spread about the Universe from one planetary system to another. Although begging the question of how life began, “panspermia” is an interesting idea and as valid as any other. No one really has a clue. Should it prove to be correct, however it is not a great leap of logic to suggest that life and evolution started elsewhere in the cosmos, some of which may be lagging behind us in evolutionary terms whilst others are far ahead. Some may be as advanced of present life on earth as we are of the primitive bacteria that left its mark in Greenland's rocks 3,800 million years ago.
Earthlings, for many decades now, have been producing radio and television programmes intended for our own consumption but which have been seeping away into space. As well as unintended broadcasts to space, there have also been intentional ones (SETI) beamed outwards in the hopes of their being intercepted by other life-forms. Could we have invited the attention of very advanced aliens who may have cracked the problem of time travel?
Having said all that, suppose the basis of life is not physical but pure consciousness i.e. spiritual?