Alexis Rubenstein writes from Aberdeen: Scientists this week tell us that more planets could have sustained life forms than we have so far thought possible. Here in Scotland, at the British Festival of Science, there’s a new idea about life out there in the universe, or even some other universe. It goes like this. Until now if we think that if a planet has or has had surface water, then that’s an indicator that the planet had some sort of life and may still do.
But this week, a very bright PhD student at the university here, Sean McMahon, says why confine our ideas to surface water? What about underground water?
Now, my doctor and dietitian tell me to drink two litres of water a day to live longer. I believe them. Even I believe that water is true life blood. Scientists say that life form may have been able to live on less. I say, what do you mean could have? Why not still? It doesn’t have to look like us or foul things up like us.
McMahon thinks on a bigger scale. He’s interested in how life could overcome some of the planetary problems of living too close to the sun or too far away.
He says that planets close to the sun dry up because the water evaporates. Planets too far away may have ice, but it’s ice. The middle bit is the ideal for supporting life. Not too hot and not too cold it is called a Goldilocks planet.
But he says, if a planet is big enough it could have underground water that didn’t turn to ice. So life form is possible. Couldn’t that mean that most of life here on earth is not on the surface, but deep in our planet’s belly? Could be, he says.
But Aberdeen Uni has got me thinking in a different direction.
Could there be hundreds, maybe thousands, of planet-type places where we could send some of our not quite loved ones without being accused of sending them to oblivion?
We could do this through the PAIN (Planetary Alphabetical Identification Naming) system.
For example, we could send Citizen Ahmadinejad to the Planet Alpha, the bankers to Planet Bravo, the politicians to Planet Papa and Tony B all by himself – just to be sure – to Planet Tango.
Personally, I would send Madonna to Planet Mike, Clegg and Cameron hand in hand to Planet Charlie; I suppose for balance, Ed Miliband should go to Planet Wallace. Every tribute band would be sent to whichever letter they’re impersonating and Fergie and Andrew’s girls to the most badly dressed asteroid, Planet Naff.
I wonder if Richard Branson’s teeth shouldn’t be sent to Planet Gnasher – tourist class of course so they’d know how most of us feel on long flights. For the rest, do your own list.
Why bother? Mainly because there is a sense that the people who annoy us most (without even counting relatives) are all massively powerful and we’ve even voted for some of them.
Worse still, there’s a sense that these people are not only powerful but mediocre.
They take us to wars that we all know we should not go to under any circumstances and rules of logic. They corrupt the money supply and rip off our savings when every half-witted clerk in the banking hall knows that if you give somebody a sensible mortgage they’ll work hard (and therefore pay taxes) to keep their castle away from the bailiffs.
They cringe for our votes every four or five years and promise us the world if we do. What about promising them the world? Not this one of course – they already own that. Let’s do everyone a huge favour. Let’s believe young McMahon and the good scientists at Aberdeen this week. Let’s pick planets and stellar ice packs, call-up Houston control, stick our chosen ones aboard a Titan and keep NASA in business.
Best of all, once they’ve all gone we can look around our own planet with plenty of room and have time without them always pestering and controlling us and ask the simplest question: how did we, on this once very sustainable planet, bugger things up so much that we’ve allowed ourselves to be controlled by such a horrid society of charlatans and political harlots?
Of course, McMahon et al might ask themselves the other question from their super computer modelling: when will the foul-up rate accelerate to the point that that we shall have to leave? But to go where? To one of the McMahon planets of course. Yes, but…
Just imagine. You escape this hell. Arrive on the light-years-away planet only to be met by the teeth, the perma-tan, the new-look hair. Three light years hard travel and guess what? Welcome to Planet Blair. If McMahon’s right, anything is possible, anything but justice.