Scientific discoveries have a way of suddenly snapping us out of our subjective reality and forcing us to think of things in terms of the “big picture” that I am so fond of referencing. In recent years the scientific inquiry into the existence of other “Earth-like planets” has yielded some interesting results.
The fact that Earth may not be as unique as we have always assumed is a concept that arouses a mix of emotions; awe at the possibility of other life, or Earthling colonies on other distant planets is enough to feed the imagination for days. For me, this also highlights the finite nature of Earth’s resources; suddenly it does not seem so big and infinite when we find out it is just one of (possibly) many like it. Finding a niche in your own personal world is a difficult enough task, but bringing the entire universe into the picture seems downright unfair. Even so, these Earth-like planets are extremely far away; the one in that particular article was in a solar system 42 light years from ours… a possibility but a distant one. It really hits close to home when our own solar system is not what we thought.
This week scientists confirmed that there are “at least 100 billion tons of water ice” and also “organic material” on planet mercury. That’s right. Billions of tons of water in our solar system, not on Earth. The most interesting part of this article to me was this excerpt:
“The water and organic material probably aren’t native to Mercury; one theory suggests they could have been delivered by icy comets as they smashed into the surface.
It’s widely believed that this is how organic molecules made their way to Earth as well, meaning Mercury, then, could offer a glimpse of a possible early stage before the development of life as we know it.”
This discovery alone merits a doubling of the NASA budget. I have spent hours, days and weeks of my life studying both the Earth’s history and the history of mankind. I strongly believe that the answers to today’s problems are, at least in part, contained in some form in the past. The fact that this offers us a glimpse of the early stages of our planet seems like an irresistible learning opportunity to me; it would be like allowing a doctor to study an ailment in a patient by looking at an earlier version of that patient.
I think that the value of the answers that studies and observational missions like these provide are dwarfed by the questions they raise and the perspective that they offer. I believe that our path as a species will be determined by our unabashed curiosity and ambition to determine our place in this universe. The more we know about it the more we can do to make the right decisions for our planet and every living thing that makes a home on its diverse terrain.
Keep learning and feeding your curiosity– the future of mankind depends on it!
What knowledge has humbled you?