Monday, December 14, 2009

The Universe: a double-edged sword

We live in a beautiful and mysterious place. On Earth, our skies are a calming shade of blue, our clouds are fluffy and white, and our atmosphere burns up incoming meteorites and filters out dangerous radiation. Our plant life is green and vibrant, and provides our planet with vital oxygen that it would not otherwise have. Our animals are intriguing, beautiful, and extremely varied, each occupying a niche of its environment and serving a purpose in the food chain, a food chain that gives life on Earth autonomy. We are at an ideal distance from our sun, and our own moon stabilizes Earth’s climate, which is among the reasons why terrestrial life has flourished here. Even the planet Jupiter, with its massive gravitational influence, acts like shield for life on Earth, deflecting countless rogue comets and asteroids.

It seems as if everything here is perfect. Everything is fine-tuned, and it all promotes our existence. How could this place not have been made for us? The answer comes from simply looking at what we have in context with the forces of the Earth and the cosmos that would have us dead. For brevity, I have included only a fraction of these:

The Cosmos:
1) 65 million years ago, an asteroid unsympathetically struck our planet, and wiped out all but a few tendrils of the tree of life. The universe does not care that we are alive; we are participants in it, and are susceptible to its destructive forces.
2) Gamma-ray bursts are the most violent explosions in the universe. They most often occur in other galaxies, but are so powerful that they are visible to the naked eye from 10 billion lightyears away (the other side of the universe!). They are highly directional and very rare, but if one were to strike Earth, every point on the planet would experience something similar to standing a mile away from an atomic bomb.
3) In 5 billion years, our sun will turn into a red giant, engulfing our planet.
4) The Milky Way galaxy is on a one-way collision course with the Andromeda galaxy.
5) The laws of nature are NOT perfect for life. 99.9999% of the volume of the known universe will kill life instantly (heat, radiation, cold).

The Earth:
1) Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanos, hurricanes, lightning strikes, attacks from other life forms (including deadly plants and animals, infections, and other humans).
2) 99% of all life that has ever lived on Earth is now extinct.
3) We can’t live on 2/3 of the Earth’s surface, we could freeze or starve on half of what remains.

I am thankful to be alive and to live on Earth. But when I look at all the events of Earth and the universe (not just the good ones), I see that this place is in no way perfectly tuned for our existence.

- Evan

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