Earth-like planets are numerous: 10 questions for the new neighbors

So scientists now believe that about 1 in 5 stars similar to the sun has a planet somewhat like Earth orbiting it. Meaning, I suppose, that there’s probably more than one Miley Cyrus in this big universe of ours.

A report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gives the details:

The Milky Way (the galaxy, not the candy bar, for you non-scientific types) alone could be home to tens of billions of planets that have liquid surface water; better yet, the nearest one might be only 12 light-years away (too far for us to get to it, but close enough for the incredibly advanced beings on it to get to us; think, hopefully, “E.T.” and not “Independence Day”).

Of course, this is exciting news. Much like learning that your dad had another wife and family and you now have six new brothers and sisters, along with uncounted cousins and nieces and the like.

OK, let’s try that again.

Of course, this is exciting news. Really. It’s the kind of thing you read and then go, “Huh. Say, who’s playing on Monday Night Football?”

Sure, maybe I’m just jaded. Or maybe I’ve always been one of those forward thinkers who assumed that we aren’t alone in this solar system, or certainly this universe.

But honestly, what I want now is for a scientist to point to the night sky, somewhere over there just to the left of Jupiter and just to the right of Orion’s belt, and say: “See that little twinkle? Well, there’s a planet orbiting that star with folks just like us on it.”

It would be a “Horton Hears a Who” moment for humankind.

That may not happen soon. But when it does, maybe we could send some kind of space probe, or space signal, to them. We have questions; maybe they have answers.  So I’m ready. Here’s my Top 10 list (in no particular order):

  1. Is there American-style democracy there, or do they have some kind of government that actually works?
  2. Do our distant neighbors have cable TV? If so, did they understand Episode 3 of this season’s “Homeland”?   
  3. Do they know what those Google barges are really for?
  4. Do they have universal healthcare, including a website that works, or is it a Republican-style system in which the wealthy thrive and the rest die off, quietly?
  5. Are Twitter, Google and Facebook universal concepts? If so, how do we “follow” and “like” them?
  6. Have they invented cellphone service in which calls never get dropped?
  7. Do they have freeways, and cars, and bicyclists, and do they all get along without cyclists being run over or dodging in and out of traffic, ignoring stop signs and red lights?
  8. Which is better, soccer or football?
  9. Also, who’s the best ever, Michael Jordan or Wilt? (Sorry, I’m a big Wilt fan and am just looking for bar-bet material.)
  10. And, is it possible to have clean air, clean water and no hunger and no war? OK, how?

Oh, and one word of warning to our new alien friends: Whatever you reply, and however you do it, rest assured that the NSA is listening in.



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Throw out Obamacare? Yes, and give us a single-payer system.

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