Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Universal Laboratory

Currently, there are stringent regulations and rules in place to protect interstellar objects from contamination by earth-based organisms, either single or multi-cellular. The scientists studying the water of Mars do not wish to contaminate the sample that might contain evidence of life with life. At some point, though, we do know what needs to happen: Colonization. The universe is a laboratory of wonder and amazement, and there comes time to start fiddling with things. You see, all known and verified life forms in the entire universe are located on one floating rock, and, more specifically, upon the smear of soil and air that skims across the surface along with the sloshing jostle of sea that slips around the top of massive tectonic plates. We are one giant volcano away, one nuclear winter, one asteroid, one broken Paris Accord away from potentially ending all life in the universe, period. Not just our own, but all life. This is the only place we know there is life.

For this reason, I question the decision to focus on interplanetary exploration without the notion of any terraforming, at all. There was serious discussion of how to terraform Venus, for example, by Carl Sagan, who suggested releasing genetically-modified bacteria into the upper atmosphere of the planet to eat through and shift the atmosphere into something more habitable to life, to permit terraforming to happen. Mars, a rock devoid of surface water, seems a poor candidate for life as we know it in our forested, grassy, suburbs. But, life is pernicious and takes root at the base of deep sea vents and at the top of the Himalayan range. The sort of life that is possible in a Martian atmosphere will emerge or not, if enough seed life is planted. I say, start throwing the life forms - the tiny ones - all over our stellar town. See what we can get moving. See what terraforming we can make happen on Venus and Mars. The multi-cellular, complex organic life that could be the legacy of earth is currently limited to just one little blue ball. Our situation on earth has never been more precarious. It's time to make sure that life has a better chance of continuing, even if it isn't us continuing.

Spread life. Terraform to support life. If it is human life, that's great for us, but the first step is getting a massive, complex eco-system of single-cellular life forms to pave the way for the massive, complex eco-system of some sort of multi-cellular, complex organisms. We cannot guarantee that they will eventually form cities, become anthropologists, and recreate our marvelous, mysterious, nihilistic dance with creation. But, where there's life, there's hope. That's what they say, anyway.

Make more life. There are planets near us that are indifferent to their status as sterile labs, and form a naked canvas for the organic fingerpainting smears of Darwin's God.

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