Earth sized planet found orbiting our sun’s nearest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri

From Nature (h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard)

Astronomers have discovered evidence of a small, rocky planet orbiting our nearest star – and it may even be a bit like Earth. Nobody knows whether the planet, called Proxima b, could ever sustain life. The little planet orbits our sun’s nearest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri, making it the closest exoplanet ever found.

proxima-centauri

Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun, has an Earth-sized planet orbiting it at the right distance for liquid water to exist. The discovery, reported today in Nature1, fulfils a longstanding dream of science-fiction writers — a potentially habitable world that is close enough for humans to send their first interstellar spacecraft.

“The search for life starts now,” says Guillem Anglada-Escudé, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery.

Humanity’s first chance to explore this nearby world may come from the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to build fleets of tiny laser-propelled interstellar probesin the coming decades. Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years to cover the 1.3 parsecs from Earth to Proxima Centauri.

Proxima’s planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star — much smaller and dimmer than the Sun — every 11.2 days. “If you tried to pick the type of planet you’d most want around the type of star you’d most want, it would be this,” says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. “It’s thrilling.”

Earlier studies had hinted at the existence of a planet around Proxima. Starting in 2000, a spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile looked for shifts in starlight caused by the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet. The resulting measurements suggested that something was happening to the star every 11.2 days. But astronomers could not rule out whether the signal was caused by an orbiting planet or another type of activity, such as stellar flares.

Video:

 

Full story here: http://www.nature.com/news/earth-sized-planet-around-nearby-star-is-astronomy-dream-come-true-1.20445

paper on the science of the discovery: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v536/n7617/full/nature19106.html

 

Advertisements

286 thoughts on “Earth sized planet found orbiting our sun’s nearest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri

  1. Build two exploration probes and send them both out. One to Alpha Centauri (just on the off chance) and one to Proxima Centauri. One gains an economy of scale building two probes.

    • First rule of government contracting. Why build one when you can build two for twice the price – S.R. Hadden

      • I’ve worked for a government contractor. I challenge you to present actual data where two items, purchased at the same time with the same specifications and schedule, have cost twice the single unit price.

      • Wrong. The first thing one needs to develop is an engine to get the probe there. An R&D cost. R&D does not need to be done twice or thrice.

    • “””””….. One gains an economy of scale building two probes. …..”””””

      No !

      One gains the scale of economy by building two probes. Pretty much double the price of building one.

      G

      • Not really. Engineering and design (the greatest cost) is about the same whether you build one or a dozen. The per unit cost for construction also goes down, but not really anything much for just two.

    • Well, although the conclusion is not “ground truth” (as in confirmed directly by instruments), it would be pretty impossible physically for the planet to be made of anything other than rock. A gas giant would have to be much larger in order to preserve its mass, and the orbit is too hot for a world mostly made of ice.

      • As the planet orbits the star, the star will wobble. This wobble can be picked up as red and blue shifting of the star’s light. Of course this method doesn’t work if the axis of the orbit is pointed straight at the earth.

      • Spectral line shifting (the Doppler effect) for exoplanet discovery sets a lower limit on the exoplanet’s mass. The above press release acknowledges this with the “…planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth” qualifier. It could be more massive, like a Neptune.

        Not sure how they know this is a Rocky “Earth-like planet” and not a Neptunian-size gas planet.

      • Perhaps they are inferring this because it is thought to be inside the protoplanetary “frost line”?

      • Menicholas,

        They also acknowledge in their Discussion section the likely origin, i.e. it migrated in to this position from beyond the ice-line.

        “For example, the formation of Proxima b from in situ disk material is implausible because disk models for small stars would contain less than 1M⊕ of solids within a distance of 1 AU. There are three possibilities: the planet migrated in via type I migration; planetary embryos migrated in and coalesced at the current planet’s orbit; or pebbles/small planetesimals migrated via aerodynamic drag and later coagulated into a larger body. Although migrated planets and embryos that originate beyond the ice-line would be rich in volatiles, pebble migration would produce much drier worlds.

        A planet rich in volatiles at that orbital distance is a hot gas planet like Neptune, i.e. a Hot small Neptune. Nothing like our terran world, or even Venus.

      • joelobryan

        Why did they compare spectral line shifting of a stars mass with Neptune in that graph? when they could have used Uranus!

      • jeanparisot,
        source of graph.

        Science magazine. An August edition. Perspective editorial, somewhere. I lost the link.
        Author is Oppenheimer.

      • Clever statement, Brian. Oh, wait…If its implication is true, the statement can’t possibly be clever. And if the implication is false, the statement is also false, so it still can’t be clever. Unclever statement, Brian.

      • Anything is possible. See, if climate scientists can define zero sea ice as anything less then one million square kilometers, then we can define “no intelligent life” as everything below just above Brian’s intelligence (whatever that is)

        First we need a grant to study Brian’s intelligence.

      • If it does have intelligent life, I would imagine they are praying really hard that we won’t show up any time soon.

  2. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star — much smaller and dimmer than the Sun — every 11.2 days. “If you tried to pick the type of planet you’d most want around the type of star you’d most want, it would be this,” says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. “It’s thrilling.”

    …Dave, you’re blithering idiot.

    • Well, maybe he *is* interested in studying potentially habitable planets around tiny red suns. There is a whole sub-field of research devoted to the study of habitability around M-dwarfs, since they are by far the most common type of star.

      • Well, with respect to the chances of supporting life, it is the strength of the insolation that matters; a smaller star can still supply the right amount of energy if the planet is close enough, as seems to be the case here.

        In general, the search is biased toward smaller smaller stars with planets on tight orbits, as with this combination gravitation will impose the largest movement on the star.

    • Slow down Pat; maybe Proxima b is the perfect place to send the warmistas.

      They evidently prefer this unknown rock to our lovely earth.

      G

      • If we pay this right, we may be able to get every Watermelon on the planet to get on some ships and leave us the hell alone once and for all.
        We must plan carefully how we spin this.
        First rule…do not, under any circumstances, discuss this plan on any public forum, lest the get wind of the ruse.

    • I’ve known astronomers, Patvann, and I don’t recall one of them calling someone he’d never met a “blithering idiot.” No, they were far too polite to do that. They also had much more subtle phraseology than that to fall back on, when justified, in private. You can’t be an astronomer, or you’d have stated your case, instead of resorting immediately to an empty ad hominem.

    • Not only that, Proxima is a flare star. And its output is 85% in the infrared. Except when the flares are blasting the “earth like planet” with x-rays. Also the planet is probably tidally locked meaning one side face the star all the time.

      Somehow I think I’d rather have a earth mass planet orbiting a small G type yellow dwarf star at about 1 AU as my favorite type of planet to find.

      • I would tend to agree, although some have stated a preference for a small reddish star due to it’s far greater lifespan on the main sequence…although I for one find it dubious that the billions of years we have left for the Sun to remain mostly stable will prove insufficient for human needs.

      • “Not only that, Proxima is a flare star. And its output is 85% in the infrared. Except when the flares are blasting the “earth like planet” with x-rays.”

        We shouldn’t get too excited about finding life around flare stars. There may be some kind of life that could survive there, but humans better find themselves a nice sun-like star to call a new home.

      • agesilaus writes: “Not only that, Proxima is a flare star.” What I was thinking as well, it’s a problem all the red dwarfs have and eventually they explode. In fact, I just stumbled on an Amazon prime documentary that spends about an hour speculating on whether life could exist on a planet orbiting a red dwarf and what sort of life it might be. It was silly in many ways but it did bring up X-ray/UV blasting problem.

      • If Proxima’s planet has an atmosphere at least as great as Earth’s, then X-rays from flares won’t be a problem at the surface.

        As for the amount of visible light – Proxima’s surface temperature is about 3000K, same as the typical color temperature of halogen lamps used in retail lighting. For equal amounts of radiation from the sun (5785 K) and Proxima (3000 K), Proxima’s radiation has about 22% as much visible light as the sun’s radiation has.

      • Followup on the amount of visible light in Proxima’s spectrum: Going by bolometric output (either mentioned by Wikipedia or calculated by using the stars’ diameters and temperatures) and well-known absolute visual magnitudes, Proxima’s spectrum has about 3% as much visiible light as the sun’s spectrum has, as opposed to the 22% I came up with. I used the blackbody formula and the photopic function, and I also calculated percentage of spectral output being in the 400-700 nm range – I got close to 22% each way. Proxima’s effective surface temperature is 3042 K and the sun’s is 5772 K according to the Wikipedia articles on these stars. I get similar, only slightly different temperatures from most other sources that I found by web searching.

        The discrepancy apparently comes from the spectral response of photometric equipment used for determining visual magnitude of stars having low sensitivity to longer visible wavelengths. The spectral response of such equipment is known to not match that of human photopic vision, and seems to have some consideration for human scotopic vision, and is designed to give results as similar as possible to those of an older method using a standard monochrome photographic film used in astronomy that was largely insensitive to most red wavelengths, used with a “visual filter” to block UV, most violet, and some of the blue wavelengths that this film was most sensitive to. However, I am surprised at the discrepancy being so great.

    • So true. The planet is probably tidal locked and subject to extreme solar flares. It may have a temperature near the freezing point of water and be rocky but my guess is Red Dwarfs are not the place to look for life as we know it. The problem with these guys is they find what’s easiest. What with a couple of thousand planets now found, how about just concentrating on G and K types.

    • The planet is moving way too fast, its gravity way too strong, for life to form.

      Its not an ideal planet at all for life.

  3. “The search for life starts now,” says Guillem Anglada-Escudé,

    This reminds me of that old joke.

    A constable on his beat comes across a drunk on his hands and knees under a street lamp.

    The cop asks “What’s are you looking for?”.

    “I’m looking for my keys.” Replied the drunk.

    “Where did you drop them?” Asks the cop.

    “Back towards the bar.” Says the drunk.

    “Then why are you looking here?” Asks the cop.

    “Because I can see here.”

    I guess we are confined to looking where we can see.

    • Reminds me of Andy Cap staggering home in the London night fog and running into a similarly boozed companion.
      ‘ere ‘ang ta me mate, I know every drainage ditch in London !

      Sssploosh ! See, ‘ere’s one now !

      g

  4. I see these analyses of alien planets and wonder how these nuts made it into science and managed to wrangle grant money.

    A red dwarf will only send light inches into water.

    The ocean will be effectively dead except for some scum on top.

    Life rose in the ocean. That doesn’t seem likely in this case.

    • Who said it had to be the same kind of life that rose here. Use some imagination. Life on this planet 200 million years ago would not be recognizable to those of us who live now

      • Actually, not true at many levels. Clams still around. Woody plants still around. Bony fishes still around. All with proteins made from just 20 amino acids. All eukarytes. The ‘eyeless’ master control gene has apparently been conserved since the Cambrian explosion. And so on.
        Whether a noncarbon life form could exist is a matter of imaginative but tenuous debate. Cairns-Smith’s clay hypothesis suggests yes (the simpler of his books is Seven Clues to the Origin of Life), Chemistry considerations suggest no.

      • That statement is absurd.

        The Triassic had animals, fish, and trees that we could eat or use.

        What could emerge on Proxima is some kind of scummy slithery creature.

        The lower light frequency would yield less efficient photosynthetic energy conversion.

        Tidal locked, very likely no water (no late bombardment), the good news keeps piling up. But if there is a lack of water that precludes recognizable life. Further whatever atmosphere they do have would probably be poisonous to us and vice versa.

      • According to The Devil in the Dark episode of Star Trek (written by Gene L. Coon), carbon is not necessary for life.
        That’s good enough for me, and should be for you too.

      • ..PA, what if the oceans are not from liquid water but another liquid..would that make any difference ? Just curious…

      • I am guessing any of the properly sized carnivores from that era would recognize us well enough to know we are food.

      • Even our proto-mammalian ancestors existed 200 million years ago. Here’s a reconstruction of Morganucodon, from 205 Ma:

        Some taxonomists consider therapsids of this ilk actually to be mammals.

        Oxygen was about 80% of present concentration.

      • I should have said that 80% was the Triassic average O2 level. In the Jurassic, oxygen concentration was about 130% of today’s, so 200 Ma, it might have been around 100%, as the Jurassic started 199 to 201 Ma.

      • Menicholas
        August 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm

        Definitely Postosuchus (genus from 203 Ma):

        After the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event, theropod dinosaurs took over from crocodilian relatives as the dominant carnivore in most land ecosystems.

        However to humans the plants of 200 Ma would not have been all that appetizing.

      • More Daftitude.
        Element Blood Seawater
        Sodium 3220 10800
        Chlorine 3650 19400
        Potassium 200 392

        A new ocean with 1/3 the salt of the current ocean isn’t far from blood chemistry.

        The blood chemistry isn’t remotely close to fresh water.

    • If life was brewed up from inanimate matter in the oceans, some think it happened at hydrothermal vents, and if so would not need sunlight.
      In fact, I do not know that sunlight is a heavy favorite for being one of the key main ingredients for spontaneous generation of life.
      My money is on starseeds…bits of living matter that cling to interstellar flotsam, or perhaps free floating, from some long ago and far away genesis event.
      Evidence that this is possible is compelling.

      • True, but by removing the constraint of time (interval between origin of earth and origin of life), it makes the origin seem much less unlikely if it was some random but improbable event.
        And life may have evolved in space, in some interstellar cloud, or in a protoplanetary disc, or some other place besides the surface of a rocky planet.
        I know people who seem to have the impression that the mystery of how inanimate mud was transformed into living matter has been solved by science.
        You may well be as familiar as I am with arguments against and for Earth based spontaneous generation.

        Interestingly, if we find life on other planets in the Solar system, and it has the same structure and building blocks as earthly life, this will not really rule in or out anything much. Ditto if the same is found for trans-stellar life…some might assume this implies common origin, but some might assume that there is only one way for life to exist, and it will quickly arise if conditions permit. Still others may argue for creation.
        It seems to me we will get the best info the quickest on such questions if life that is not compatible with earthly life is found.
        At least we could rule some things out.

      • Menicholas,
        Life began and is traced back to your earliest ancestor on Earth, life exists on Earth for a fact, I hear intelligence skips a generation, I read that somewhere, maybe from Panspermin Tea leaves?

      • Well, it definitely skipped mine.
        I am thankful to have wise men who did not get skipped to borrow from.

      • Luke,

        There is life in the deep ocean, this is earth and we know life exists here, fact, this is the place where life has evolved and adapted to take advantage of this planets awesome variable environment.

        I am your father!

      • You must not be familiar with the works of Elon Musk, who has proved that the odds are one on quadrillions that we are not in a computer simulation.
        Red pill or blue pill, Sparks?

      • My personal identity has always been available in the media for a long time, ever since I came back from the moon where they created me, and I just want to expose them before my cloned blood gave up. there is just one moment in time for me, I don’t exist and I have come this far, I just want to hold her again.

        How’s that for a movie reference Menicholas.

    • Life likely arose on earth in the shallows. It evolved and now lives in the sunless depths, caves, and even inside ‘solid’ rock.

      • If by likely you mean “perhaps the most popular in one school of thought amongst the myriad wild ass guesses” regarding the origination of life, I agree with you.

      • The clay hypothesis for origin of life strongly suggests shallows where rivers enter the sea. Weathering of igneous rock provides the clay microcrystals that wash into waterways; they settle and aggregate in river deltas, which are by definition shallow. Cairns-Smith’s hypothesis is the only one that solves the evolutionary conundrum of requisite protein machinery for RNA and cell wall synthesis, and provides a structural chemistry framework for plausibe biochemical evolution from nothing to something to what all life shares today: proteins from just 20 amino acids, mRNA, DNA.

      • But think of a cell or organism which is killed by a electric shock or some other such mildly damaging insult…it would have all the proper elements and machinery, all arranged in the right place and sequence…and yet it is dead.
        What created the first “spark”…if there is indeed such a thing.
        I am familiar with the idea that the first life must have been different than what cam later, and what came later destroyed or ate or displaced this first gen organism. And that the existence of life all over earth has prevented a secondary genesis event based on slightly different chemistry, over an interval which is many times the first origin interval.

      • “Cairns-Smith’s hypothesis is the only one that solves the evolutionary conundrum of requisite protein machinery for RNA and cell wall synthesis, and provides a structural chemistry framework for plausible biochemical evolution from nothing to something to what all life shares today: proteins from just 20 amino acids, mRNA, DNA.”
        I am not so sure it solves it, or if it merely hand waves it away.
        No matter how you slice it, it is unimaginably unlikely for all of these ingredients to come together in the right place and time and spatial orientation.
        And yet it happened in a geologic blink of an eye.

      • IMO ice is a more likely incubator of life than clay. However, adding minerals into the mix does accelerate the process of spontaneously forming complex organic compounds.

        But those need not have arisen on earth. They arrived here on meteorites.

        Among the many interesting discoveries in recent origin of life research is that a rickety version of RNA with one different nucleobase (still used today in a certain position) solves the problem of strand separation.

      • A hundred million years or less is plenty of time. Unimaginably gigantic numbers of chemical reactions would have occurred in the aquatic environments of Hadean/Archean earth every second of that time.

        But of course there’s also the possibility that microbes arrived here from space along with their constituent parts.

      • M, read his book. Available in Kindle ebook format today. My well thumbd paper version is ancient. Blink of a geological eye could be a very few hundred million years. All that is required is that earth had a solid ‘stable’ crust and liquid water. My personal guess is that those conditions exist on many other not tidally locked rocky planets in goldilocks water zones elsewhere in the universe given trillions of suns and billions of galaxies. Drake equation. But relativity says we will very likely never know if speed of light truly is a fundamental limit. So for all practical purposes, we are alone.

      • We could get a handle on how likely it is or not by creating a large number of sealed vessels with what various schools of thought suppose are the proper ingredients, and see if we get anything.
        I suspect we could create billions of such vessels, wait thousands of years, and see nothing but various levels of more or less complex molecules…but nothing that spontaneously transforms into living matter.
        Then there is the question of viruses…are they alive? Certainly they can be rendered inviable…some quite easily, some less so.
        Did they come first?
        Or after?
        And in either case…how?
        We really know little, except for a growing appreciation of how incredibly complex even the simplest living organisms are.

      • Ristvan,

        Like could also arise in situation such as Europa or Enceladus, a moon with ice on its surface but liquid water beneath, in contact with a dark seafloor with hydrothermal vents heated by gravitational tidal forces. Sunlight isn’t necessary as an energy source for life.

      • Menicholas,

        Viruses are generally considered not alive. It’s unlikely that they came first, since they need other living things. However in a prebiotic “soup” maybe strands of RNA could reproduce in a similar fashion. Production of the protein coats of viruses however requires advanced biologically machinery.

        The simplest living things today are complicated, but the first organisms would have been much simpler. The sort of protocell which researchers hope to make now could be as elementary as a short strand of RNA encased in a bilayer lipid membrane. Whether metabolism along the lines of a simplified Krebs Cycle must also be going on within this “cell” is unclear, but in a primordial nutrient-rich environment, maybe not.

      • Dr. Istavan…yes, i will get a copy.
        I do not know if I have read this from the original source.
        I can tell you i have been reading everything I have ever come across on the subject of origins (The Universe, life, consciousness…) from a young age, and I have found mostly more questions, and a lot of possibilities, and few, if any, concrete answers.
        Gabro, yes, there are well thought out and considered hypotheses, but in the end, all are based to one degree or another on uncertainties.
        We know that all life on earth seems to be of a common origin, consisting of the same basic ingredients, and that therefore there was likely (but not certainly…if this is the only possible pattern) all the result of a single genesis event.
        I am not at all convinced that we have anything even remotely like answers…just lots of interesting questions and possibilities.

      • “We know that all life on earth seems to be of a common origin, consisting of the same basic ingredients, and that therefore there was likely (but not certainly…if this is the only possible pattern) all the result of a single genesis event.”
        Which insistently asks the further question…if it happens readily in a few hundred million years…why only once?
        Yes, it does seem compellingly argued that the presence of the first event precluded a second genesis…but it seems unconvincing.

      • One thing we should all keep in mind everyday…we are lucky to be here.
        It does seems a shame that we each have such a brief window in time, when there is so much waiting to happen we may never know anything about, but at least we all have the great good fortune to be here, now, to discuss it and (hopefully) appreciate our good fortune for at least a short time.

      • If life developed on earth rather than came here, there could have been any number of genesis events, but the basic metabolic and replication systems we see today won the darwinian struggle for resources.

        There have been great breakthroughs in origin of life research in the past decade. Science may never be able to say how life actually arose, but we can already say how many important steps could have happened.

        The Szostak lab for instance has shown experimentally how modern membranes could have arisen (and probably did) from a simple lipid bilayer, and how such a protocell could have divided (and probably did). They and other labs have made impressive strides on RNA replication, too. Ditto RNA as an enzyme. A young lady recently showed that a snippet of RNA only five bases long has catalytic activity.

        All the remaining problems are being attacked with steady success, which advances tend to reinforce each other, as in the instance I cited of a slightly different RNA.

        Once a replicating, metabolizing protocell existed, it was off the evolutionary races. DNA replaced RNA in the genetic information storage role, two different membranes evolved (bacterial and archaeal), and bacteria and archaea combined symbiotically to form eukaryotic cells, the nuclei of which probably derive from a virus.

      • Menicholas,

        As I mentioned, there might have been any number of instances of RNA replicating within a simple membrane during a brief period in earth’s history, but soon the best system won out.

        Why abiogenesis quit happening is, as you suggest, pretty obvious, since once organisms were around to consume available nutrients, those complex organic compounds undergoing chemical evolution were no longer able to develop into living things, but got eaten.

      • It might be amazing to be alive if and when all these questions were answered with sufficient clarity and certainty to say that it is almost surely the case that live just invented itself and inanimate ooze figured out a way to pull itself up by the bootstraps and transform itself, spontaneously, into all of the amazingly beautiful, terrible, interesting, tragic and splendidly lovely creatures, plants, flowers, and forms we see all over the Earth.
        Or it may be a terrible thing, to discover and to know for sure we all are here because of some random and not particularly baffling or even unlikely circumstance.
        To discover that we came from nowhere in particular, for no reason at all, and are going nowhere.
        The human spirit may be tragically transformed by such information…and people decide, to an even greater degree than some seem to have already decided, that nothing matters, and we truly are just an ephemeral accident…that all that we are and all that we have over loved, appreciated, wondered over and been mystified by shall indeed and definitely be gone someday, washed away by time and chance…lost forever in time, like tears in rain.
        I am not sure we want to find out this is the case…not at all sure we rally want to solve every mystery, answer every question…and we will only find out that this is tragically the case when it is too late.

      • There is already no reason to imagine that life arose in any way other than naturally, without supernatural intervention. That fact doesn’t bother me in the least. It takes nothing away from my appreciation of nature and human existence.

        Many things in nature self-assemble without being alive, to include minerals. It doesn’t require a miracle outside natural science for self-assembling organic chemicals to become living things. It’s not that great a step. RNA is a remarkable molecule, pregnant with life.

      • “Like could also arise in situation such as Europa or Enceladus, a moon with ice on its surface but liquid water beneath, in contact with a dark seafloor with hydrothermal vents heated by gravitational tidal forces. Sunlight isn’t necessary as an energy source for life.”

        I agree.
        We should be sending probes to these places to find out, if plans are not already in the works.
        And, for that matter, why is it we do not yet know if Mars is sterile or not?

      • I am not sure why, if there is a Creator, that this represents something “supernatural”?
        Would it not be completely natural if something guided the creation of life.
        But that was not even the main thrust of my point. Even among atheists, and definitely among agnostics, we really do not know, for sure, one way or the other. There are mysteries, some questions seemingly forever outside of the realm of certainty.
        I am quite familiar with the humanist view that lack of a God does not equate with no reason for morality.
        And I see no compelling reason to disagree.
        And I do not believe that there is some old guy with a beard sitting on a cloud listening to our prayers and deciding who wins the lottery.
        But I do believe in a Higher power in the Universe, and would probably be surprised to find out that life, or the Universe, just up and invented itself one fine and happy day.
        But I cannot explain it, and do not abide by organized religions.
        If you had walked my life in my shoes, you would know that there is a God too.
        Not to be found in a book, or in a building…but in our hearts, and in the natural beauty, complexity and wonder of the world and of the Universe.
        I am not a very good writer, and not a poet at all, so I cannot tell you how I know…just that I do.

      • We haven’t sent probes with the right capabilities to Mars. There are those who say that we blew it way back with the Viking, whose life tests might have killed hydrogen peroxide based organisms in the tested soil. But better days are coming. The methane mystery persists.

        Based on the little known now, IMO Mars probably is sterile. If life exists there, it’s underground. But it could have developed there in the past, when the planet had liquid water on its surface. The methane in its atmosphere is most likely abiogenic in origin.

        But we’ll find out about life there while most of us are still alive.

      • A Creator is outside science because the God hypothesis is at best non-scientific. It can’t be tested by a falsifiable prediction. It explains nothing. It’s a punt. Plus, there is no reason to believe such a Thing exists. Neither can anyone say that It doesn’t.

        What we can say is that there is no scientific reason for supposing that such a Thing exists. The origin of life can much more satisfactorily be explained by natural science than by mumbo jumbo. Origin of life research promises real, useful advantages in increasing understanding. Religion, not so much.

        The God hypothesis might be of some utility at a much higher level, ie the existence of our particular universe and its laws, but even there better explanations exist.

        There is no compelling reason to posit a Creator when every year we come closer to understanding the totally natural origin of life, where natural means processes that we already understand without appeal to fairies and spirits.

      • I fear you are transforming what I spoke of into something else entirely.
        Since such matters are outside the scope of this thread, I will demure, but not agree that the ultimate mysteries are solvable given the present state of human consciousness.
        Is relativity and entanglement unnatural or the realm of sprites and fairies because we are unable and unequipped to wrap our minds around such things?
        The particle wave duality?
        Spooky action at a distance, or the implications, those which we are presently aware at least, or quantum mechanics may be forever beyond the ken of man, or may simply indicate dimensions beyond the ones of which we are aware. Who knows what else resides in these hidden dimensions, folded up into distances so small we cannot comprehend them?
        I posit that it is limited thinking that leads one to the belief that what we see is all there is, and anything else is “unnatural”.

      • I think someone once said that the Universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.
        Religions were invented by man, and we know that.
        But I think it is incorrect to suppose that this means that all of the concepts are similarly made up.

      • “But I think it is incorrect to suppose that this means that all of the concepts are similarly made up.”
        I said that wrong.
        What I meant to say is that just because religions are made up, is not evidence that life and the Universe created themselves.
        Or a reason to suppose that it must be so.

      • For some truly mind bending mysteries, consider the realm of the very small, which extends to many orders of magnitude beyond that which we are aware.
        Maybe that is where the “answers” lie…in the realm of the Plank scale, where motion may be incremental, rather than smooth…distances which can never be slit in half…such a distance is as small as a distance can be.
        Consider that, and how impossible it is to truly understand such a thing?
        What is hidden down there?
        Compared to that, the very large may be a child’s crib for all the mysteries it holds.

      • I suggest considering an alternative.

        Everyone gets panties in a bunch trying to show how a living cell with funtional membrane evolved.

        My idea / suggestion is that life first evolved in a large puddle without a cell wall. Reducing atmosphere and stable soup mud lets the basic chemistry start with loads of free floating RNA bits. Only later does it get broken up into small packets we call cells and they gain membrane funtions to further stabilize the interior chemistry.

        Makes the problem easier, does it in stages, and spreads it out in time.

      • E.M.Smith

        Makes the problem easier, does it in stages, and spreads it out in time.

        Nah. far easier to believe in 1 miracle, than 10^22 successive “correct chemical accidents” occurring one after another in a mud puddle.

      • “A Creator is outside science because the God hypothesis is at best non-scientific. ”
        I disagree.
        “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”
        Beyond what we are aware of, or understand the basis of, yes…
        But even the most far flung theory of how the Universe formed from the Big Bang stops at the moment of the bang, and says nothing about what is outside of our expanding knot of spacetime.
        There is nothing unnatural about things of which we are unaware by direct examination…only undiscovered.
        Conflating the terms scientific and natural and then saying that anything unfalsifiable at the present time and using current knowledge sounds to me like a punt.
        Respectfully submitted for your approval…although I somehow doubt you agree.
        Trying to explain quarks and the conversion of matter into energy to a caveman would be impossible, and a very smart caveman could say that someone who believes in such things is talking about elves and fairies…but that does not make it so.

  5. The paper also says that at the planets distance from its star it is probably tidal locked, like the moon is to Earth. Not necessarily conducive to life even if there is an atmosphere to carry energy from the lit side to the dark side.

    • Hey, they could be looking at Earth and saying ” Looks like it orbits it’s star every 365 shazzblorns, is tilted 23.5 fthortnabs, and rotates every 24 plixrithps…nothing could live there”.
      We are biased, is all I’m Just Sayin’.
      :-)
      PS…I read a lot of sci-fi.

    • The authors do acknowledge problems with life habitability on such a world.

      “The most common arguments against habitability are tidal locking, strong stellar magnetic fields, strong flares and high ultraviolet and X-ray fluxes; but none of these have been proved definitive. Tidal locking does not preclude a stable atmosphere via global atmospheric circulation and heat redistribution21. The average global magnetic flux density of Proxima is 600 ± 150 G (ref. 22), which is quite large compared with that of the Sun (1 G). However, several studies have shown that planetary magnetic fields in tidally locked planets can be strong enough to prevent atmospheric erosion by stellar magnetic fields23 and flares24. Because of its close orbit to Proxima, Proxima b suffers from X-ray fluxes that are approximately 400 times that experienced by Earth, but studies of similar systems indicate that atmospheric losses can be relatively small25. “

      Tidal locking also means any free water (not hydrated to minerals) would have been frozen in-place on the unlit side, while the lit side was baked hard dry, hot, and X-ray blasted.

      • But right in between…
        Jeff Goldblum admonished us all very plainly…life finds a way.
        Or it doesn’t.
        With one example, we have little to go on.
        Nothing really…all we really know is we are here, and it happened in one place, at least this one time.
        But, then again, others look at the same information and conclude it is/was impossibly unlikely and therefore we are all living in a Matrix-like simulation…or at least Elon Musk did so.

  6. The Breakthrough Starshot team is betting that a burst of concentrated lasers, fired from the ground, could rapidly accelerate a mobile-phone-sized device equipped with microelectronics and a tiny sail — providing much more energy than could be harnessed from the Sun. Whereas NASA’s plutonium-powered New Horizons spacecraft took nine years to reach Pluto, the “nanocraft” envisioned by Breakthrough Starshot would pass by the dwarf planet and exit the Solar System in three days.

    Keeping the thing on course for 1.3 parsecs to hit a planet-sized target is an interesting challenge.

      • No gnats will be harmed by the Starshot lasers. The same might not be said of Russian satellites, however.

      • So what would be the frequency or wavelength of these Starshot lasers ?

        And have you calculated what the Raleigh range would for a TEM00 laser beam emitted from the largest EM Antenna under contemplation for such a laser transmitter ??

        G

    • Good luck picking up the radio signal from such a device. From what I have read, it would take the equivalent of all the coal, nuclear and hydroelectric plants on Earth to power a transmitter than would send a signal that our best radio telescopes could detect from that distance.

      • Well, maybe not if it was a tightly collimated and precisely aimed beam…IOW…a laser.
        And we had a space based radio telescope to intercept the signal.
        Consider how far we have come in a hundred years…to where we all now carry cell phones with a tiny battery that can call anywhere on Earth, and have no external antenna at all?
        But they oughta get that worked out before spending any money sending a probe which will otherwise do little more than point a giant sign back to Earth that may turn out to be ill-advised once the space locusts find it and send a ship to mop us all up for a afternoon snacky-pooh.

      • “Consider how far we have come in a hundred years…”
        ———————-
        Within the past 100 years, Edwin Hubble first demonstrated that other galaxies exist outside of the Milky Way.

      • Good point, Alan R. It’s a shame the bureaucrat science gang wants the public to think there’s nothing left to discover (except the gory details) in the climate change dept..

  7. Unless they are planning to have the craft loop around the star in order to return to the earth, anything that is learned by the craft will remain unknown until after we develop warp drive in order to catch up with it.

    Anything that light is going to be affected by interstellar gasses.

  8. At least we now have a target for the first interstellar ship/probe. New tech is needed to get there within 1,000 years but anyway.

      • Yes, we are seeing it as it was 4 years ago.

        Red Dwarf stars stay the way they are for up to 100 billion years. They don’t have “stages” like all the other larger stars. So they are a good target for searching for intelligent civilizations since intelligence has a long-time to evolve and a long-time to become even more intelligent/technological etc.

        But the downside of Red Dwarfs is that they likely have a much more unstable solar cycles/solar flares etc. and the closeness of the habitable zone means the planets are more likely to be tidally locked.

        Personally I think “tidally-locked” means the planet has no hope of being habitable since it will either be like Venus, as in there is too much solar energy accumulation on the sunlight side for anything but a Venus-like thick hellish atmosphere or the opposite, a zero-atmosphere since the star is always blowing it away.

        A nice stable reasonable 24 hour rotation like on Earth is probably the most habitable planets.

        But this planet will likely be there for 100 billions years.

  9. If the Starshot probes are purely ballistic, they will miss, and it will take 25 years to learn by how much they missed amd adjust the trajectories for the subsequent shots accordingly.
    Otherwise they will have to have the gear (hardware and software) on-board to calculate and execute mid-course corrections.

    • It could be a Brownian motion sort of reason for the miss, and no amount of preplanned aiming accuracy will do the job.

  10. They sure extrapolate a lot from statistical analysis of the effect on its star. Some planets have even vanished from further data evaluation.

  11. Over 4 light years away-how long would a probe last and the tricky navigation when it gets close would be very complex since there would be no way to communicate with the probe. Waste of money.

    • They plan on sending thousands and thousands of them, so it will not be as big a waste as if they just send one and it misses.
      I do not think the people that think “thousands” is a big number have a full appreciation for the distances involved.
      Heck, even here on Earth, people do not understand how a plane could get lost on the bottom of the ocean.

  12. The star is 4 light years away. It is a binary star, so the planet’s orbit will almost certainly be unstable. Even if it were a perfect earth-like planet, we can’t get there in a finite amount of time. As your velocity approaches the speed of light, your mass increases. We couldn’t get close to that planet in a million years unless somebody comes up with a worm hole solution.

    • Never get there in a finite amount of time?
      Not so.
      Fusion powered ion drives could make such a journey, and a large enough ship could even get people there after many generations, or the original crew if suspended animation is ever invented.
      Besides, all intervals of time that one could name are finite.

      • Well, except for intervals like “I will be over to your house in no time”.
        That would imply travelling infinitely fast (or at least the speed of light) and a interval consisting of no time whatsoever…so I take it back.
        :-)

      • And, “We’ll be over to fix the plumbing right away,” for an example of an infinite time interval, Menicholas.

      • Which may be why I never got married and learned to do all my own handi-work.
        Or it may have been that doomsday prepper streak my well-educated father instilled in me.

    • No, Proxima is not part of a binary system. While it is true that Proxima *may* be gravitationally bound to the Alpha Centauri binary system, it would probably be orbiting at somewhere around .1 light years, which is a long way out. As close as the planet is estimated to be to Proxima, the orbit could easily be stable. The biggest problem, IMHO, is the fact that Proxima Centauri is a flare star. But I still think we should study it anyways.

      • Note that the moons of Jupiter have stable orbits… were it a second star, further out, they would be stable planet orbits.

        There is nothing about a binary system that requires orbits be unstable. Yeah, some whacky ones can exist, but a lot of stable ones too…

    • And then there is always the possibility of an interstellar ramscoop drive.
      There are many possible solutions, including all the ones that no one has thought of yet.
      If someone invented a gravity polarizer, for example, who knows…

    • BTW, Trebla,
      Our fastest existing ship would take about 78,000 years to get there.
      A long time, to be sure, but hardly infinite, and certainly far less than a million years.
      And that is just what we have created on a relative shoestring budget, one nation at a time-ing it, for solar system exploration needs.
      We could easily get there much faster if it was a human level priority and we all worked towards the goal using existing tech only.

      • It may be a triple but Proxima is very far out from the other two with an orbital period of 800,000 years IIRC. I’m not sure that they have determined that Proxima really is bound to the other two stars.

  13. So the hype all week was about a discovery made 16 years ago that “may”… “if”… And it will take 20 years to travel there at 20% ‘the speed of light “if”… and “The search for life starts now” bahahahaha

      • Hey, starting may be problem at that speed. But presumably, whatever means one uses, assuming it is self contained and carried on board (And not a laser powered light sail, or giant cannon, or a linear accelerator on the moon, or such), you just make sure you have twice as much fuel as it takes to get to that speed, and turn the ship around halfway there.

      • The idea is thousands of gram sized “probes” accelerated by a ground based laser. No engine carried. No stopping, No turning. No hope of ever getting launched either.

    • The first nickel of my money they want to send a probe anywhere beyond Uranus, and Nick is gonna get upset!
      And as far as that goes, I do not know that they have ever fully investigated the browns rings that Voyager reportedly found encircling that dark and forbidding place.
      For that matter, we know more of such places that what lies beneath our own oceans.

      • I think it’s innuendo jokes like that which have stopped NASA cold in sending any robotic spacecraft specifically to the 7th planet. Voyager 2 made a pass-by in 1986, pre-internet long before Youtube and social media.

        Can anyone imagine the level of Uranus jokes NASA would have to endure in today’s social media world?

      • Hey, I heard that the Union of Concerned Scientists, working the teachers unions and backed up by the many astronomers who have taken a position, have nearly agreed that we should, once and for all, do away with the present name of the seventh planet…eckspecially given that it was a cosmic joke created by William Herschel as a back-handed dig at King George for what he thought was an insultingly small stipend/reward for having discovered an entire planet.
        I have a new name all ready, widely agreed to be far better and less embarrassingly joke worthy.
        We should rename the planet Urectum forthwith.

      • “Can anyone imagine the level of Uranus jokes NASA would have to endure in today’s social media world?”
        Thankfully…YES!

      • I mean, we should go.
        It is outrageous that the Klingons have established a permanent base there, and we have barely had a whiff of the place.
        Then again…
        (OK, for Joel’s sake…I will stop now)

      • The name was first proposed by German astronomer J. E. Bode. Herschel did however want to name it in honor of King George III, but not surprisingly, that suggestion wasn’t popular outside of Britain. Or even in parts within it.

      • Dont’cha hate it when the facts get in the way of a good story?
        Fortunately, facts never get in the way of a good joke…or even a bad one.
        ;-)

      • There’s actually a very good point here somewhere and I can’t quite put my finger on it, why is there all this discussion going on about probing another planet around a nearby solar system, when there is so much to explore and understand about our own solar system? Is it because we know that there is no other life? we know there is no other intelligent life for scores of light years beyond our solar system, we know this because there would be an ongoing exchange of serious in-depth commentary of insider jokes about the planet Uranus by now.

      • Since NASA and the other major space agencies seem to be giving Uranus no respect, maybe the North Korean Long Dong missile turned into a planetary launch vehicle will be the first to penetrate its recesses.

        Unless they use the No Dong missile instead.

      • Maybe if by “Internet” you mean fat young white guys guzzling high sugar, high caffeine carbonated beverages while posting prolifically and angrily from their moms’ basements.

      • You do not strike me as young or sitting in a basement guzzling energy drinks.
        Please to not shatter my every illusion all in one day.

      • Menicholas,

        You’re right. I am old and not fat nor a consumer of high sugar, high caffeine beverages.

        But my comments were of the sort that basement dwelling Internet troglodytes might have made.

  14. I have to admit that this “search for life on other worlds” has me a bit confused. I’m fairly certain all other things considered that the laws of the universe are, well, universal and that anywhere circumstances conspire to combine conditions to the formation of life; there it will be and evolving by the same principles as locally. I grew up thinking that was the “scientific” take on this matter. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked away.

    • Supposition piled on supposition and informed chiefly by cognitive bias, we still have exactly one example and thus have no clue whatsoever what is or not likely, possible, improbable, inevitable, universal, or anything else like that.

      • It’s not supposition that the constituent chemical components of earth life, ie amino and nucleic acids, sugars and phosphates, and other complex organic compounds, exist everywhere in the universe, nor that liquid water is also almost ubiquitous, even if only in pockets in ice.

      • Yes, granted.
        But we cannot really say if the reason we are here wondering about it is because it is inevitable, given the initial conditions, or a one in uncountable trillions event which has never and will never be repeated due to just being incredibly unlikely.

      • I don’t know…It seems to me that an awful lot of the speculation about “extraterrestrial life” is like a group of nine year olds who’ve discovered a porn stash for the first time. They know they don’t have a clue as to what is going on but there is something just gratifying about pontificating to their peers on all the salacious details and it is strangely alluring to them. How about… If we are going to spend $ let’s set a few commercial and scientific goals and colonize the moon and Mars!

      • True. Won’t be able to say until life is found on another world.

        However we do know that RNA forms spontaneously in water pockets in ice, and that it is capable both of storing information and catalyzing reactions. Also that lipid spheres similarly form naturally.

        With quintillion upon quintillion of organic chemical reactions occurring in various kinds of closed and open system environments with many energy sources, I’d say that the odds favor life, and that it might well be an inevitable result of the laws of physics and facts of chemistry.

    • FA, Yup. The Drake equation. Neat intellectual trick: Start with a sufficiently large number, multiply by any quantity of small probability fractions, and you still end up with a big number. Just like the surest way to make a small fortune is start with a large one.

      • But we really have not much clue about the actual probability of many of those suppositions.
        Although I have always been surprised that it was ever considered possible that planets were rare, some other of these parameters are just pure guesswork, with no possible way to infer directly what the actual odds are.

      • Given the Drake equation…the question, as Fermi asked, becomes…”Where are they?”
        Where indeed.

      • Given the Drake equation…the question, as Fermi asked, becomes…”Where are they?”
        Where indeed.

        Well, some politicians and self-selected “scientists” demanded they curb carbon emissions and demanded that the entire economy be made of recycled material and from renewable resources.
        Two years later, they were back in a 1780 world of blacksmiths and wooden plows.
        Twenty years later, they were extinct after a new disease swept through the few remaining sod-and-thatch hovels.

      • So, it may turn out that our host and those of us here resisting such pin-headed nincompoopery, and others of a like mind elsewhere, literally saved the human race from itself.
        I would like that…poetic justice on steroids.
        The secret is then to invent the internet before inventing James Hansen…and we were the first in the whole Universe to do so!

      • Where are they? Manning the quaratine marker beacons 2 light years away warning the rest of the intelligent species to avoid this planet as it is infested with violent untrustworthy lying ignorant smelly beasts…

  15. We must remember that there has been no direct observation nor confirmation that there is any planet there at all. It is very exciting to think that all of these oscillations of stars are caused by orbiting exo-planets, and it may even turn out to be true. But it is far from proven fact.

    See my essay on “What are they really counting?” .

    Some caution is appropriate lest we allow our enthusiasm get the better of us.

    • People seem impatient to conflate the logical domains for some perceived gain. This “discovery” is another philosophical conjecture that may one day transition into the scientific domain. In the meantime, with implicit assumptions of uniformity, linearity, and independence, there is a concerted effort to design that space.

  16. As everyone’s favorite Vulcan would say, “Fascinating.”

    I don’t know what chance a planet orbiting a red dwarf could support life. It might depend on whether only some red dwarfs are flare stars or if the ones which “aren’t” flare stars are just dormant.

    • Actually, Proxima Centauri is a flare star.

      “The Sun’s nearest stellar neighbor Proxima Centauri is a flare star that undergoes random increases in brightness because of magnetic activity.[5] The star’s magnetic field is created by convection throughout the stellar body, and the resulting flare activity generates a total X-ray emission similar to that produced by the Sun.”
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flare_star

      I doubt that life could survive such a burst of X-rays if it is close enough to a red dwarf to support life.

      • Unless it is under an ocean?
        Or the planet has a large magnetic field?
        Of is the moon of a large planet with a very large protective field?
        Or all of the above.

    • Stars like our own Sun would be the place to find Earth like planets that could support life. If an Earth like planet is discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri A or Alpha Centauri B, such a planet would be a good candidate for life.

      • Some have opined that without a very large oversized moon, life on earth as we have it would have been impossible.
        And without some as-yet clearly explained introduction of a huge ocean after a late heavy bombardment, it would not be.
        The number of improbable events which allow us to be here pondering it may be large.

  17. I just want to say ..I don’t care about this.
    Space stuff used to be a drama..but now I don’t see how people can get so excited about it.
    Like most missions make little difference to real life.

  18. Let’s build a flying saucer-like space ship including a family plus one unrelated male and a robot. LOL!

  19. Cue Monty Python’s “Universe Song, “…. :hope we find intelligent life out there in space, ’cause there’s b….r all down here on Earth”.

  20. I read a book several years ago, I don’t recall the title. But the author put up a series of requirements for life as we know it to arise on a planet. It’s not as simple as Drake’s anal extraction formula implies.

    First you have to be in the right galaxy, active galaxies probably are deadly.

    Next assuming you end up in the right galaxy, you have to be in the right part of that galaxy, at least 1/3 of the way out from the center. The center has that black hole which blasts out high energy radiation plus there are more active stars near the center.

    Next you can’t be too near a group of massive type O, B or A stars which go supernova.

    Next your star has to be stable and have the right metallicity. Meaning it’s at least third generation star with a mix of elements needed to construct rocky planets. The sun is built out of the wreckage of early generation stars.

    And he goes on for a fairly massive book like this getting down to how the biological triad of Proteins->DNA->RNA ever happened by random action. He makes a plausible argument against that. You can’t make proteins without DNA for example. I know there have been some claims about RNA recently but how do you go from RNA to DNA?

    So I doubt that live is all that common. Oh and by the way, that Fermi question ‘quote’ probably never passed his lips.

    • The sun might be second generation rather than third.

      From RNA to DNA is trivial. The only difference is a single oxygen atom. But that slight difference means that DNA can form a double helix.

      Dunno which book you read, but it’s an anti-scientific tract. Maybe at the time it was perpetrated, there was some basis for its outlandish claims, but not now. If ever.

      • Is that so, maybe you can explain by what mechanism the Triad is created by random action. DNA/RNA/Proteins. You need all three for life as we know it to exist, there is no example of a different scheme that we’ve found. They all mostly use the same amino acids too tho there are plenty of other possible amino acids that could have been used. Life seems to have arisen once in 4.5 billion years here on Earth.

        The comments about life being created around black smokers on the seabed. That life is the same DNA based life that exists on the rest of the planet. It seems more likely that organisms adapted to that environment from other sealife. Even microbes found deep in rocks uses the same triad as all other life.

        All the theories of the rise of living organisms seem to require some form of high energy: Lightning, UV radiation ect. I don’t know where that comes from on frigid and dark European oceans. Of course the Surface of Europa is blasted by gamma radiation from Jupiter by you could assume that is shielded out by a thick layer of ice.

      • I believe the book he’s talking about is “Rare Earth” by two scientists at [University of Washington or Washington State University? I’m using my phone, so it would be hard to switch back to see.]. It got a favorable review in “Science.” It’s not an old book – post-2000, I believe.

        You may be missing the fact that agesilaus used the phrase “life as we know it.” The book argues that life may be common, but complex, intelligent life is probably extremely rare; microbes are most common, plants are somewhat rare, animals are very rare, and intelligent animals are extremely rare; probably the average number of [intelligent races or civilizations?] per galaxy is 0-4, and it is even possible that we are alone in the universe.

        It is not anti-scientific to argue so. It is anti-scientific to say that it is anti-scientific.

        BTW, it makes no sense to speak of the book’s being “perpetrated” at a time when “there was some basis” for its claims. Crimes are perpetrated, and it wouldn’t have been a crime (metaphorical) when there was some basis for it. The fact that you speak in such a careless way is a strong sign that you’re peddling propaganda.

        en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_(book)

      • I can understand why people get mad at each other in the global warming debate, as we are talking about, on the one hand, those of us that see harmful policies being enacted with little or no evidence to back it up, and on the other hand, those who imagine that the world is going to end as some people are refusing to see this “truth”, and actively opposing institution of measures they see as saving the world.
        But in a conversation about the origin of life, there are no such stakes.
        I do not understand how it can be taken so personally when someone has a different view.
        Partly it is a result of the impersonal nature of internet discussions I am sure, but there are also those who are arguing from a position of theology, versus those who see anyone who believes in God as somehow mindless, or else unable to comprehend matters of science, let alone be actual well informed scientists.

        I also think many people on the atheist side believe that anyone who believes there could be some sort of Creator also believe that such an entity must be as described in the Bible, someone who decides who wins the lottery, and which planets have life. That may be true for some people, but it is not true for everyone who has a hard time taking it for granted that life arises spontaneously, and the Universe came from no where for no reason, or even if these questions have a common answer.

        I just wonder how a pool of inanimate slime came to be sitting at a computer wondering about such things…no matter how much time was involved, or what the odds were.
        And I wonder how a Universe created itself, with a set of rules that allowed all of this to occur.
        I have a lot of questions, and few solid answers, and perhaps a little faith.
        But I also remember vividly being in a car accident, and being killed, or very nearly so, and something happening that really has no logical explanation if there is no afterlife. And then doctors saved my life/brought me back using some very modern technology.

    • I think I tried, in my awkward way, to make the point that a collection of the proper molecules in a sac is not alive…even if they would assemble themselves and collect in the same place at the same time.
      I would like to read this book, but it sounds familiar and maybe I did or at least a condensed version.
      I have heard he said it, many times over many years…but I confess I was not the one sitting there taking notes.
      Like Donald Trump…much of what we hear people said was never actually said by them.

      • BTW, to paraphrase Scott Adams:
        If you like puppies and sunshine, you may want to consider voting for Donald Trump.
        Because he likes them too.

      • Definitions of life differ, but I think I can say that all involve metabolism and replication. A protocell in which RNA replicates itself, while chemical reactions resulting in a net gain of energy occur, leading to the lipid-constrained sac splitting, would indubitably count as a living thing.

        IMO, were more money thrown at the problem, labs could produce from scratch such a protocell in five years. As things are, it might take 20 years.

        But it’s coming, sooner or later. There is no mystery. Just chemical engineering and problem solving.

      • Gabro, I believe that was tried by Harold Urey and others. There was quite a fad of mixing up soups of possible prebiotic mixture and then zapping them with electrical discharges or UV. Yeah look up the Miller-Urey experiment which I think went on for years. They did create all or most of the 20 amino acids but in a racemic mixture. That’s another question why are all life chemicals in the levo or left handed form?

      • The Urey-Miller experiment is only of historical interest. Since then, using more realistic early atmospheres, constituent compounds have been generated. But it hardly matters, since now we know that meteorites carry far more amino acids and other organic compounds to earth than have been made in experiments simulating the early earth.

        The interesting thing is that chemical processes produce about the same number of left and right chirality molecules. But life selectively uses only one “handedness” or the other. This fact provides further strong support for the development of life on earth or in bodies in space.

      • Gabro, you would do well to read Cairns-Smith, referenced above, and stiil avalable as a paperback or ebook at Amazon. A short version of his ~1500 page original tome. Which you can also still get, but much much more expensive.
        The RNA to DNA change may seem simple to you, but where did the enabling protein machinery arise? Ah, that is the evolutionary conundrum you utterly fail to address, which he does.

      • Ristvan,

        I’ve not only read his book, but have discussed his hypothesis with him.

        I haven’t addressed the origin of proteins because no one asked me to.

        RNA is at the core of protein synthesis. The extent to which that is true has only recently emerged. No need whatsoever to invoke minerals.

        In retrospect, it’s surprising how long it took microbiologists to recognize that the ribosome is a ribozyme. This had not yet been appreciated when Cairns-Smith wrote in the 1960s to ’80s. Yet there it is, wrapped in all kinds of other biological material, at the heart of the protein-making factory is RNA.

  21. Nobody knows how life began on earth.

    It can’t be repeated in a lab.

    All mechanisms are at best, speculative.
    The more yakity yak from mathless unscience zealots proves the life creation position of modern biologists is a kind of populism. Watch the chatterboxes.

    Richard Dawkins on the origins of life…

    See time stamp 1:45 (Apparently we came from aliens)

    Stephen Meyer explains the odds of life arising by Chance.
    Hint: No Chance by Chance.

    • Paul Westhaver
      August 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      More complete, total and utter unscientific lies by a professional liar.

      As for Dawkins, as your scientific betters have repeatedly showed you, he doesn’t say that aliens were responsible, but that they are at least as plausible as your hairy sky father fairy, for which there is not the least shred of evidence and all the evidence in the world against such a spirit. In any case, the Stupid Designer hypothesis is at best unscientific because it can make no falsifiable predictions.

      Again, as you have been repeatedly shown, the professional liars’ “math” is idiotic and utterly devoid of any science. The actual scientific fact is that the constituents of life spontaneously form, and the vast majority of genetic material passes on in each generation, so that your professional liars’ arithmetic is totally and completely without any biological basis.

      Why do you persist in commenting on subjects about which you are not only profoundly ignorant, but objectively laughably wrong in every detail?

      • Actually, even the arithmetic of the fairy believers isn’t a valid argument, since so many reactions would have occurred among and between the complex organic molecular precursors of life on earth. Countless orders of magnitude greater than the totally bogus and spurious “math” of the science d_niers.

        If those of Paul’s orientation were in charge, there would be no antibiotics.

      • Please tell us what is unscientific about the presentation, only a couple of minutes long, by Stephen Meyer?

      • “…he doesn’t say that aliens were responsible, but that they are at least as plausible as your hairy sky father fairy…”

        The misrepresentation of Dawkins doesn’t end with Paul; see those cute little editorial captions at the bottom of the screen? They’d be more effective, though, if they weren’t so amusing, e.g. at 0:47, “Scientists know life could not start under the conditions of earth 13.5 billion years ago.” Well yes, we can all agree on that, since our planet wasn’t even around then. :-)

        There’s another oopsie at 1:30: “Exactly what I.D. scientists have been claiming all along about God.” Uh-oh. The only thing that distinguishes “Intelligent Design” from Creationism is that ID (supposedly) doesn’t depend on a deity, and now this video blows ID’s “cover”. Bad video! :-)

    • Paul Westhaver
      August 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      You are oh, so wrong.

      The mechanisms by which life arose are not in the least bit speculative. They can not only be repeated in the lab, but have been, and in the field.

      You really ought not to presume to comment upon disciplines so far outside your ken.

      Presently, these and many other relevant phenomena have been observed in the wild and/or created in the lab:

      1) The presence in meteorites and on asteroids of all the basic components of living things. By all, I mean all. Others have been observed in interstellar clouds. The universe abounds in the complex chemical compounds of which organisms on earth are made.

      2) The spontaneous assembly of RNA and other even more complex compounds under a variety of conditions, to include on clays and in ices.

      3) The ability of RNA to catalyze reactions needed for replication and metabolism.

      4) The spontaneous self-assembly of fatty membranes, the ancestors of today’s cellular membranes.

      And that’s just for starters.

      You really ought to read up on recent advances in origin of life research before making such a fool of yourself.

      That’s what always happens when religious zealots try to do science.

    • Funny, Paul…I never knew anything of this conversation between Ben Stein and Dawkins, but many of the same ideas have long been floating around in my head.
      I never watched the entirely of Dawkins debating creationists, although I knew of them.
      My impression has always been of two people talking right past each other…or more precisely, one talking past the other, and the other looking at a larger view of the universe and not assuming things.

      • If you trust in the tools of scientific reasoning,which I affirmatively do, then the truth about these matters will be revealed in time. I am not in the “creationist camp”. I do listen to criticism and am willing to consider new ideas even if they disrupt long held assumptions about the progression of life on earth. It seems to me, that Ben Stein’s question and Dawkin’s (absurd) answer says something about Dawkin’s rapid abandonment of reason. He should have said “I don’t know”. In science it is ok not to know something. He tried to fill in the gaps using his narrow view erected upon his limited scaffold. It sounded really weak.

        He should have simply said, “I don’t know.” Because he doesn’t know. He looked like a silly man just making it up, hoping nobody will notice.

        Science will assist us in revealing how it all works. But we have to rely on science, not scientism. In that sense, I like to keep an open mind.

  22. There is still zero, zilch, nada, not one, none, no data at all showing life to exist anywhere but on the Earth. Before we go sending probes to other stars in search of life shouldn’t we have at least found one extraterrestrial microbe somewhere in the our own solar system?

    • Conditions on Mars, as was pointed out by Gabro, should have been sufficiently Earthlike for life to arise spontaneously, if that is how it happens.
      And if it did, considering how permeated the Earth is with life, it should still be there waiting to be discovered.
      Is it that hard to create a machine to go find it?

    • There is that rock they found in Antarctica, I think it was, that some say contains fossilized remains of some bacteria…maybe.
      Complex organisms like tartigrades can survive the hard vacuum of space and live, and so, presumably, could spores or eggs or encysted bacteria.
      If rocks from Mars hit earth, we can be pretty sure Earth rocks have hit Mars, and so life on Mars may not prove much unless it was different.

    • Tom T,

      “There is still zero, zilch, nada, not one, none, no data at all showing life to exist anywhere west of Europe.”
      ~ Pope Alexander VI

      “I’ma gonna show you!”
      ~ Cristóbal Colón

  23. Menicholas,

    What is your deal, dude? How many freaking times are you going to post on this thread? You’re sucking up all the oxygen. Go do something else for awhile.

    • I am multitasking, and you have no idea what else I am doing at the present time.
      But now you hurt my feelings, you big meany.
      If you are a sock puppet, post under your usual handle, or shut up.
      If you are commenting for the first time, screw you.

      • Menicholas August 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm

        Hi Menichlas the thoughts that you and the others have been posting have been worth the time to read. thank you .
        Your friend
        michael

      • Mike the Morlock

        There’s a bomb under yer caaar!! type attitude? he’s ok, stick to the science numb nuts :-)

  24. Dr David Berlinski, Mathematician, Biologist and Philosopher discusses Darwinism, skeptically, based in math and science, not obstinate ranting.

    He raises the discussion…great talk.

    • Berlinski is not a biologist. He’s a philosopher. He may have worked as a “research assistant” in microbiology, but that means he cleaned Petri dishes.

      You have been lied to by enemies of humanity.

      • If you want a discussion with me “Chimp” you’ll have to use a real name, as I do. Your response regarding David Berlinski is 7 minutes after I posted it. The video is 38:00 minutes long so you didn’t actually listen to what he said… did you “Chimp”. Some “scientist you are! Berlinski actually discusses the lack of self criticality amongst scientists. This was in the first 10 minutes.. so you didn’t even listen that long… proving his point hey “Chimp”. ….google and wiki glossing is no substitute for knowledge or intelligence.

      • This conversation reminds me of the warmista vs skeptic duality.
        The warmistas assume that skeptics are dumb and antihuman, or some such equivalent set of arguments as we see here with Chimp deriding Berlinski and Paul Westhaver, but a careful looksee does not seem to back up these assertions, and in fact the opposite seems as likely, or more so to be the case.
        When someone stops referring to actual, or factual, information, and just starts in with the insults…me, i question the motive behind that, and that person does not look smarter or better informed or more “pro-humanity.”
        They begin to look small and confused.
        But that’s just me.

  25. ‘European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile looked for shifts in starlight caused by the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet. ‘

    Shades of Scafetta.

  26. Richard Dawkins is faced with a very simple question regarding an example of evolution (increase in information) by genetic mutation. He is utterly stumped.

    Then he answers, not the question he was asked, rather a question he wished he was asked. Listen carelly and you will not hear an answer.. just blabbering about some other subject.

    If you have a problem with this, take it up with Richard Dawkins.

    • Of course genetic information increases through evolution. The genomes of organisms have grown enormously over the past four billion years.

      There is not the least bit of mystery surrounding the origin of genetic innovation.

      • Two deadly truths about Darwinism:

        (1) Natural mutation is simply genetic damage by radiation. it can be induced, but the results are ugly and/or not generationally viable. Kind of weird, thinking that radiation damage is the pathway to perfection.

        (2) Any stable genetic change induced by a random process will be so small as to lie within the span of natural variation. Thus, there is no “natural selection.” Pretty much everything thrives, or haven’t you noticed? (Also, “selection” is a borrowed concept. It has meaning only in the context of criteria and choice. Where does that come from?)

        “Of course genetic information increases through evolution.” Just reveals the Big Lie strategy of incessant assertion of a belief. The perfect statement of a violation of the second law of thermodynamics, where information is associated with the reduction of entropy (see Claude Shannon). Spontaneous reduction of entropy is impossible.

      • Chimp – how does information increase?
        I can see how yet another polymorphism might get added when an advantageous mutation happens in an already-existing, chromosome-residing gene, arises.
        How does yet another gene get added, and retained?
        To what does it pair up with in sexual reproduction?

        Will you take the tack that they get added in vast sets? Do you recognize the sticky wicket that introduces?

      • I read the article. All of it.

        This is a summary written by Dawkins, in the article itself:

        I have devoted three books to answering (The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable) and I do not propose to repeat their contents here. The “information challenge” turns out to be none other than our old friend: “How could something as complex as an eye evolve?” It is just dressed up in fancy mathematical language – perhaps in an attempt to bamboozle. Or perhaps those who ask it have already bamboozled themselves, and don’t realise that it is the same old – and thoroughly answered – question.

        So he DOESN’T answer it as you promised. The link to the skeptic pages you provided does not describe how evolution increases information in a genome.

        Dawkins just refers to 3 books he wrote, which could not recall when questioned by the interviewer. Lame.

        He doesn’t know how information comes from nothing.

      • “So he DOESN’T answer it as you promised.”

        If you had actually read the article, you would have noticed the section about “Gene Duplication”. Note also in the section “The Genetic Book of the Dead”:

        “According to this analogy, natural selection is by definition a process whereby information is fed into the gene pool of the next generation.”

        Did I mention that the answer to your “simple” question is quite complex? :-)

      • Gary…

        The second law of thermodynamics is pretty simple, even as it related to information.
        Dawkins cannot answer the simple question as to an example of information increasing in a genome by way of evolution because there isn’t any examples.

        Gary… tell me one example….. one that you understand. You may suspend the rigors of proper mathematics if you require, but your logic must be perfect in exchange.

      • “Dawkins cannot answer the simple question…”

        He did answer it, and the question isn’t simple.

        “Gary… tell me one example….. one that you understand.”

        OK. Gene duplication, as evidenced by human globin genes, as described by Richard Dawkins in the link I gave. Question answered…again. (insert roll-eyes smiley here)

      • Gary Come on off it….

        1) you have NO Idea how information is created so you keep flailing around pointing at what you think might be a credible or plausible explanation. You attempted to borrow a ladder. A help up for your predicament from Dawkins. (who can’t provide a simple example of an increase in a genome information content by genetic mutation)

        Gene Duplication.. (not that you understand it) is more accurately referred to as error in gene duplication. (something that happens AFTER complex life already is reproducing…btw)

        Errors are not information… they are “disorder” ie Increases in Entropy.. the OPPOSITE of information increase. Now don’t give me that random errors = ordered life smoke and mirrors explanation since prof Stephen Meyers just showed you that the odds are against that ever working to the favor of reduced disorder.

        Leave it alone Gary. You are just repeating things you do not comprehend.

        —signing off on this dead end—-

      • “(who can’t provide a simple example…)

        *sigh* Once again, yes he did. You obviously don’t like his example, but unfortunately that’s your problem. You’ll note that I didn’t waste a lot of time on my answer, knowing in advance you’d reject any response I gave. Am I psychic, or did God warn me? :-)

        “Gene Duplication.. (not that you understand it) is more accurately referred to as error in gene duplication”

        No, no, it really IS gene duplication, down to the last base pair. No mistakes. Sorry if the concept is too advanced for you. Once duplicated, the extra gene may be lost, or it may stay and accumulate mutations, especially if that particular gene had a (possibly weak) secondary function:

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gene-genesis-scientists/

        “Errors are not information”

        You mean like when a copying error confers antibiotic resistance on a germ? Really?

        How about the single nucleotide polymorphism for sickle cell trait? Heterozygous individuals have increased resistance to malaria, but homozygotes develop sickle cell anemia. “Disorder” or “information”? Both? Neither?

        “…Stephen Meyers just showed you that the odds are against that ever working to the favor of reduced disorder.”

        No, Meyer only calculated the odds against synthesizing by pure chance a 150-peptide chain that matches a known biologically active peptide. How is that relevant to duplication of already existing functional genes?

        “You are just repeating things you do not comprehend.”

        Right back at ya, Paul. The Discovery Institute (Meyer’s employer) would be proud of you! :-)

        “Leave it alone Gary.”

        Can’t, for two reasons:

        1) The Stupid, it burns! :-)

        2) Responding to pseudoscience is educational, whether it’s “The greenhouse effect violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics!” or “Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics!” (I’m sensing a trend here), or “Earth and Venus and Mars collided in historical times!” or “Visible light can’t heat the Earth!” (yes, that was claimed in WUWT comment threads, I kid you not). This time around I even learned about the magic of (ta-da!) LAMININ! No, really, look it up, it is AMAZING! :-)

  27. Are we talking about intelligent design?

    Homo erectus is clearly the long sort after missing link between small brain hominids to fully functional homo sapiens. A deity has no part to play, unless it came from Proxima and tinkered, in which case all bets are off.

    • 10% of the speed of light is approx 67,000,000 mph. So, how long would it take to slow down to 3,000 mph at a maximum of 4g deceleration?

      • Next question: How much fuel is needed to accomplish the deceleration for the required time?

      • Tom in Florida, the answers you seek are in the referenced article. To attain 0.1c would require acceleration at 1g for about 36 days. Realistically, of course, the first mission(s) to another star would be unmanned. An unmanned mission could use much higher acceleration.

        Here’s an interesting look at an unmanned exploratory mission to a nearby star, using “intelligent” robots:

  28. Beeing so close to the star there is a chance that the same side of the planet is facing the star all the time which will make one side frozen and the other side will be very hot.

  29. Gotta love these fairy stories, 4ly away and no evidence to prove anything. Hat always out for funding…

  30. Orbiting a red dwarf means that it is locked- the rotation = revolution, meaning one side will always face its sun. That would boil off any surface water. The dark side would be too cold for surface water. Maybe around the edges there may be some. But a red dwarf is a poor place to look for technology capable ETs.

  31. There’s enough hcu, hydrcarbonoxygen clouds in space: methyl alcohol == sugar, the same stuff plants are made of, fats are made off and muscles are powered with.

    No shortage of interstellar live support.

  32. Wow, we’ve now found a planet that exists on top of one of the most deadly types of star on the Main Sequence and subject to super-duper levels of “global warming”, but is inside the “habitable zone”! Now we know for sure that we have no warming problems at all.

  33. This is another tease by the dying Space Exploration community. Mercury has a orbital period of 88 days revolving once per orbit. Neither face is habitable. A red dwarf was very likely a red giant and has boiled away any oceans, lakes or puddles.

    Its minimum mass is 1.3 times that of the Earth but an upper limit is not established.

  34. It’s great fun to dream, of course, and to use all of mankind’s collective ingenuity to try to conceive some practical methods of visiting this ‘exciting’ new find. But IMO there’s more material in this for a Douglas Adams or a Mel Brooks than the late Carl Sagan.

    For a start, those who think 4+ light years is ‘on our doorstep’ perhaps need to re-evaluate their notion of ‘close-ish’, or preferably consult a text book to understand how far 25 trillion miles is.

    I can’t help imagining thousands of these speculative tiny laser-powered vessels, blasted out across space at Einsteinian velocities, and one finally actually making it to the mystery planet after a few decades, once someone has worked out how to slow it down from 30,000 miles/sec to soft-landing speed. Out pops a micro-robot, which then begins scurrying around the assumed solid surface, carefully avoiding the towering pebbles that are assumed to litter it, in search of life. At last, encountering a patch of slime mould, it thrusts out a minuscule microphone and asks the slime how it feels to finally know that it is not alone in the universe.

    The response is beamed back to earth, and another 4 years later the sub-picowatt signal is excitedly received and analysed at all major research establishments. After a lengthy delay it turns out that the answer is not 42, as expected, but 4 3. After further deliberation, a slime-language expert sponsored by the IPCC announces that this is simply code for “F*** Off”. The slime was clearly perfectly happy as it was, and did not welcome contact from any other life forms.

    Others may have a less jaundiced view of the practicable possibilities in our lifetimes, or those of our remote descendants.

Comments are closed.