We need a brief break from this solar system

What interesting things are happening in other parts of the galaxy?

What do you call this? A trinary star system? So there’s a big star, a star that orbits the big star and a star orbiting the second star? And the big planet has an irregular orbit that looks like it’s going to eventually send it crashing into the main star.

That’s kind of exotic, but it would be more exciting to find a planet with water, so we can get our reservations in.

Brown dwarfs – those not-quite-a-planet and not-quite-a-star objects – are intriguing oddities that are too low in mass to burn hydrogen, but are more massive than planets. They only emit a faint amount of light, so they are hard to detect, making scientists unsure of how many of them might be out there in our galaxy.

But astronomers have been keeping an eye one particular brown dwarf known called WISE 0855. Just 7.2 light-years from Earth, it is the coldest known object outside of our Solar System and is just barely visible at infrared wavelengths. But with some crafty spectroscopic observing techniques, astronomers have now determined this object has some exciting characteristics: its atmosphere is full of clouds of water vapor. This is the first time water clouds have been detected outside of our Solar System.

So it’s not a planet, and it’s not a star, but it has water? Cancel my reservation, because I don’t know what we’re dealing with here..

If humans disappeared from the Earth

So let’s say some intergalactic alien race, let’s call them Kanamits, came up with a special use for humans and took us all with them to their planet. What would happen to this third rock from the sun?

Well that’s depressing. If humans disappeared, the world would be a better place from nature’s perspective. It wouldn’t take that long: 500 years or so. And 500 years is nothing in the life of a 4.5 billion year old Earth. Hell, 500 years is nothing even if you’re deluded into believing the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

We need the Earth more than it needs us.

Let’s remember that.

The trouble with transporters

Amazingly, I think about this transporter dilemma a lot. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who went into the transporter in “Star Trek” died and was replaced with an exact copy.

Look at it this way: The transporter disassembles matter, then reassembles it. When you’re ripped apart, you die.

The fact that the being that is “transported” to a new location has your consciousness is just a computer function. Your consciousness is downloaded into a computer, then uploaded into the wetware (or brain) of the new being. The new being thinks it always has been you because it has all of your memories.

When the futurist Ray Kurzweil talks about the Singularity in “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” this is what he’s referring to. The expectation is that technology becomes so advanced, you won’t die because your consciousness can be downloaded into a new and improved container (or body).

Which is essentially the functionality of the transporter.

Of course, transportation is impossible. The book “The Physics of Star Trek” clearly points out that the amount of energy needed to disassemble your atoms then reassemble them at a distant location is more than the energy contained in the universe. Consider this (from Forbes):

Say we only care about the quantum information in the brain of the person to be teleported (since there are some claims that quantum processes play a role in the brain, though I’ve never personally found them all that convincing), and want to map that onto the brain of a copy body waiting at the other end. There are something like a hundred billion neurons in a human brain, and about a hundred trillion connections between them. That’s about 2100,000,000,000,000 possible states to worry about, or roughly 1030,000,000,000,000. That’s considerably more states than there are particles in the known universe, and if you need one entangled pair to teleport each of those (as a ballpark estimate), well, let’s just say the odds aren’t very good.

So if it takes this much effort to transport a brain, imagine how much energy it would take to transport the rest of your body. Can’t be done.

Which brings us back to what the transporter must really be doing.

I believe it’s a 3-D printer. It makes a copy of the body from other matter and includes functioning organs but no consciousness (Star Trek is in the 23rd century, so that’s totally doable if we don’t blow ourselves up before then). The consciousness is then downloaded from a computer (basic software functionality) and the result is a copy of the person that has been transported (I say “that” instead of “who” because that’s not the person who entered the chamber.)

Each time you’re transported, there is a new you. But each time you’re transported, the old you is destroyed. It might be a painful death, but the new you doesn’t know because that memory is conveniently erased.

I’d advise using a shuttle craft from now on.

What alien life forms are breathing on other planets

Here’s a handy chart from Compound Interest (Click to enlarge):

The-Atmospheric-Compositions-of-the-Solar-System

Don’t let Mercury fool you. It’s oxygen level may appear to be double that of Earth, but the Mercurian atmosphere is one trillionth that of the third rock from the Sun.

And the planet’s hotter than hell, depending on which side you’re on. Otherwise, it’s colder than hell, according to the folks at Cal Tech:

Since Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, spins slowly, and does not have much of an atmosphere to trap heat, its temperature varies greatly. Mercury’s temperatures can go between -279 Fahrenheit (-173 Celsius) at night to 801 Fahrenheit (427 Celsius) during the day. (This is hot enough to melt lead!)