'Billions and billions' of stars raise fascinating questions

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 03:45 PM.

My little columns are personal conversations about stuff that interests me. I know those interests are often at wide variance with those who read my column.

That variance is very much in evidence this week, so you may want to stop reading now. You might just fall asleep at the breakfast table and drown in your Cheerios.

Lately a lot of news blurbs have been rolling around on a subject near and dear to my heart. "Are we alone in the universe?"

To me it’s a no-brainer, preposterous to think there aren’t untold creatures out there given extrapolations from the most conservative of probability estimates. Just think about it.

Earth inhabits a galaxy with a conservatively estimated 350 billion planets orbiting stars within it. And our run-of-the-mill Milky Way shares a universe with perhaps another 800 billion galaxies!

Although we humans have developed a full measure of arrogance, it seems impossible that we are arrogant enough to seriously believe that earth is the only place in the entire cosmos that has replicating organisms. In my view that’s stellar silliness of the first magnitude.

What is fueling this current media reporting about alien life isn’t a rash of sightings or strange kidnappings. The resurgence is because planet-detecting technologies have evolved with such amazing speed. Our species are becoming much better detectives thanks to Hubble, Chandra, XMM-Newton and other amazing observatories.

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