Slum Earth

We humans, and all other living organisms on Earth have been ripped off. Our planet is a slum, compared with other planets that may exist.

According to some astronomers, superhabitable worlds may exist that are friendlier to life than our own. And in fact, Earth itself may only be marginally habitable. This makes sense. It explains to me why I’ve barely been able to get by in life.

Face it, we live in a slum. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, if you inhabit planet Earth then you’re in the barrios, the tenements, the other side of the tracks.

We’ve often been taught that the Earth is in a “Goldilocks Zone,” perfectly situated for the formation and sustenance of life. But now some astrobiologists are questioning this conventional wisdom, and theorizing that things could really be a whole lot better.

One of the primo features that may be found in more luxurious planets is mass. The best planets are two to three times more massive than Earth. They have more surface area, and thus more room for life forms to grow. They also have more plate tectonics, which helps to recycle critical material from their interior to their surface. In other words, they can keep the shit stirring and the life purring.

Another select feature is stable temperature. Our wobbly Earth has experienced ice ages that have caused mass extinctions. But luxury planets with better climate control don’t have that problem. And speaking of the weather, some planets may be just a tad warmer than ours. They don’t skimp on the thermostat like the building supervisor does on our slum planet. And so they may have larger tropical zones with greater biodiversity.

And some planets could have more oxygen. Breathing room is always a luxury. More oxygen increases the maximum possible body size. It also allows for more massive atmospheres, with greater shielding to damaging high-energy radiation from space. So there would be less cancer, and less need for sunscreen on these planets. But given our large size, we’d have to frequent the Big and Tall store, for our clothes.

Location, location, location. Recent research suggests that our slum Earth is scraping the very inner edge of the sun’s habitable zone. We’re hanging onto life by a tiny, tenuous thread. But the luckier planets are located smack dab in the middle of their star’s habitable zone. What a nice sense of security inhabitants of these planets can enjoy, compared with us.

And speaking of stars, we could do better than ol’ Sol. The best stars to revolve around are called orange dwarfs. Sadly, we’re stuck with a yellow dwarf. Orange dwarves are a bit cooler and smaller than yellows. This may provide more favorable ultraviolet environments. Orange’s also have longer lifetimes, giving the worlds that revolve around them more time to develop life and accrue biodiversity. Look at it this way: Instead of enjoying a sweet orange, we’re sucking on a bitter lemon.

Keep this rule in mind, the next time you go planet shopping: The most habitable planets tend to orbit orange dwarves, and tend to be slightly older and two to three times more massive than Earth. One location where you might want to shop is Alpha Centauri B. It’s the closest stellar system to the sun, being only 4.37 light years away, so you don’t have far to travel. It’s an orange dwarf—hooray! And it may host a planet at least the size of Earth, in its habitable zone.

Europa could become an ideal vacation spot, once we kill of all the “aliens” that might live there.

But you could also check out Europa, which is one of the moons of Jupiter. Europa is in our own solar system, and much closer than Alpha Centauri B. But it is far outside the sun’s habitable zone. Yet research indicates that terrestrial bodies may not need to be within a habitable zone to foster life, due to a phenomenon called tidal heating. The tidal force of Jupiter’s gravitational pull on Europa is roughly 1,000 times that of our own moon’s tidal force upon Earth. This force flexes the surface of Europa, generating enough heat to possibly support life.

Ah, silly me. You can’t really choose your planet. You and I are stuck with slum Earth. But sometimes late at night when your acid reflux keeps you from sleeping, you can always go outside and gaze at the stars. When you do, think about orange dwarves, and imagine super-sized planets. And eat your heart out dreaming of a better world.

Categories: Science

50 replies »

  1. I think we have a difficult (?) history, which is why we were put here in the first place and then abandoned. It was probably cheaper, and so much easier, to just dump us here and leave us to our own devices. Think about it … who would want to adopt a few families of arrogant, ignorant, self-serving humans?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, behind our sad eyes, pleading for adoption, lie hungry wolves, ravening to exploit everything we can get our paws on. Good thing for the rest of the universe that we’re stuck on Slum Earth.


  2. Well, as for Alpha Centauri B, it has a nasty neighbor star called Alpha Centauri A. This large gravitational interplay between binary stars might make it very hard on planets supporting life as all sorts of comets, asteroids, and other debris are routinely bumped around into new orbits and there might be a lot of bombardment. But maybe not.

    Europa may get tidal heating from Jupiter but it unfortunately also gets a lot of radiation as well.

    As for a more massive planet, that would be interesting. We would have to be adapted to being shorter and stronger to keep from breaking our bones every time we trip and fall. There would also be shorter mountains so maybe not so much skiing. It would also require a lot more energy to reach orbit so satellites might cost more. But maybe a thicker atmosphere would be better. It would depend if it had a moon like we have as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You seem to be astronomically well informed. You’d be a difficult customer for any interstellar real estate agent. So I guess I can’t unload my 10 hectares of Europa land on you, that I purchased a few years ago?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Let’s see what NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission finds.

        The real problem, I think, is that humans (and all Earth-life) have been designed down to the molecular level by evolution to function on Earth. Creating another Earth-life ecosystem on another planet somewhere to support us will take some sci-fi level genetic engineering I assume even if you ignore the fact that any such planet is probably tens or hundreds of light-years away. We should really be more careful with this planet for now.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I think you’re right. I’ve decided on avoiding any interplanetary travel, at my age, until a teleporting machine is invented. I don’t have tens of light years of time to be sitting on rocketship bus, reading old newspapers, while waiting for my destination.

          Liked by 3 people

          • I actually have an odd idea about how we would colonize distant planets, short of some magical teleportation device.

            I don’t think that we can send adult people on such a long journey. We’re too big and the journey would be too long. Even if we find a target plane at 50 light years distance, the journey would probably take at least a thousand years at about 5% of light speed at best. It takes too much energy to accelerate and decelerate the spaceship to and from speeds much faster than that. But maybe we’ll be able to tap into such vast energy supplies in the future. It’ll take centuries at a minimum.

            I think that we would have to send hundreds of frozen human embryos as well as for other earth lifeforms to another planet. Everything would have to be able to withstand hundreds or thousands of years frozen away on some spaceship and still come out in good shape. We also have to send robots along to incubate all of these embryos and seeds and whatnot to create the mini-ecosystem on this new planet. The robots have to be able to raise a bunch of human children and teach them to be useful and hopefully when they get to be adults, they can take over the process of creating the colony. We’d probably have to send several follow on supply ships to keep this going until it is self-sustaining.

            The big problem is, what do we get out of doing this besides knowing that in a thousand years or so there might be another human civilization somewhere that we will never be able to communicate with. Not too many governments are going to want to fund that.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Governments have funded many crazy things, so I’ll bet a slick-talking politician could get this program funded. Especially if his or her own pocket is lined in the process.

              Those poor children would be imprinted by robots. They’d be following the robots around like mother or father. But once they became adolescents, imagine the arguments. The robots would eventually have to kick them out of the spaceship, and leave them to fend for themselves in the wilds of some strange planet.

              This could make a good sci-fi movie.


        • Jason observes exactly why it’s also unlikely that humans would ever encounter “little green men”, or anything else organic. Any organism evolved to survive in the relatively benevolent environment of even the slummiest planetary neighborhood wouldn’t likely be able to survive the outright post-apocalyptic desert of an interstellar journey. Space is an incredibly bad neighborhood.

          I suspect that if we’re ever visited by aliens, it’s more likely to be through an infestation of vonNeumann-machine cockroaches.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I don’t think that we’ll encounter aliens anytime soon if ever. I think that anything as smart as us would be extremely rare in a given galaxy at a given time. The vast majority of stars are mostly hostile to life. And we have only existed for a tiny fraction of the billions of years span of life on this planet. I think that we are shouting into the void and nothing will answer, or it will be thousands of years until there is an answer. We have located many hundreds of planets out there in the stellar neighborhood and they are almost all horrible places for life. I think we’re alone.

            Liked by 2 people

          • It seems unlikely, but who knows? At one time it seemed unlikely we’d ever be able to fly. But now we’ve flown to the moon, and sent space probes far across our solar system. A few hundred years ago, that sort of stuff was pure fantasy. So who knows what any beings from other worlds have devised? For all we know, they’re already here. And you or I could be one of them.

            As for the cockroaches, I’ll keep a large can of Raid handy.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I actually agree with Jason. I suspect that intelligent life is extremely rare, and maybe just a brief fluke (see my “Happy New Year!” article). But I also think that intelligence as a way to transmit reproducible information is more efficient in machines. So if anything intelligent does survive for long enough to evolve into something more efficient, it’s most likely to be a machine intelligence.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Well, maybe so. I can’t argue much, given that we’re wandering into the realm of science-fiction, here.

                I do believe that true intelligence needs heart, though. And no machine has a heart. Not a real heart. So maybe we will have to remain in disagreement.

                Liked by 2 people

            • So you or Jason could be one of the “other beings?” It does seem like you both are from another planet sometimes so you may be on to something! And I think a unique talent of mastering puns was implanted into your brains. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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