The truth is out there … possibly

David Fong TDN Columnist

We are not alone.

OK, we actually probably are still alone — at least as far as anyone has been able to definitively prove, anyway — but a recent discovery by astronomers (would indicate there’s at least the potential for us not to be alone in the universe, which is enough to get some people pretty excited.

(Do you ever wonder what astronomers do after a big discovery? I picture tequila shots and furniture being set on fire, but maybe that’s just me …)

In any event, a few weeks ago astronomers discovered at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star some 40 light years away. These planets are similar in size to Earth and all are temperate, meaning they could have water on their surfaces and could potentially support life.

“I think we’ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury Triaud, one of the study authors and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge in an interview with the Associated Press. “I don’t think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was (life). Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to what we have on Earth, we will know.”

This, of course, gets a lot of people all in a lather — nerds, mostly. It seems folks just can’t get enough of the idea that are other life forms out there. I’m guessing most of these people have failed miserably at making friends with the human species, so they figure they might as well start trying outside of the galaxy.

Some people also are excited about the possibility of leaving the planet Earth and inhabiting one of the new planets that could possibly (that’s a pretty key word here) support life.

Of course, there are a few problems with this theory. For starters, the newly discovered planets are roughly 40 light years away. Now while that may sound like just a hop, skip and a jump across the galaxy, the truth of the matter is that with the technology we currently have, it would take us about 170,000 years to reach these planets.

I mean, that’s almost as long as it takes to get through downtown Dayton on Interstate 75 at 5 p.m. on a weekday. I’m not sure any of us are up for that journey.

I guess the part I don’t understand about everyone’s desire to get off of this planet and visit one of the new ones is this: what’s wrong with the planet we currently have? It’s a great planet. It’s been pretty good to us for for the past five billion years or so. In fact, it’s been a lot better to us than we’ve been to it.

Basically, we’ve gone ahead and trashed Mother Earth — and now that the garbage is really piling up, we want to start moving to other planets across the universe? We are kind of like the college kid who trashes his apartment, then moves home at the end of the summer. That hardly seems right.

And that’s just how we’ve treated the planet. What about how we’ve spent all these years treating one another? Seems to me that maybe that alien life that (potentially … I know I’m not sold yet) inhabits these newly discovered planets doesn’t want us moving in and acting like jerks.

I’m not so sure we need to start spreading our lack of civility toward one another out amongst the stars.

I mean, here’s an idea … maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to move to a new planet, how about we start fixing the one we have? Maybe we should start cleaning up after ourselves a little better. And maybe, just maybe, we should start being nicer to one another. We may not be able to undo all of the damage we’ve done — and we certainly won’t be able to do it right away — but we should probably at least start somewhere.

And who knows? Maybe over time we’ll be able to fix some of the damage we’ve done to the planet and to one another. Certainly, it should take less time than the 170,000 years it would take us to get to these other planets.

Because the truth is we are not alone — we’ve got one another. We depend on one another. It’s time to start acting like it.

Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at; follow him on Twitter @thefong

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