Nautilus

Is Life Special Just Because It’s Rare?

A rocket powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen and carrying a scientific observatory blasted off into space at 10:49 p.m., March 6, 2009 (by local calendars and clocks). The launch came from the third planet out from a G-type star, 25,000 light-years from the center of a galaxy called the Milky Way, itself located on the outskirts of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. On the night of the launch, the sky was clear, with no precipitation or wind, and the temperature was 292 degrees by the absolute temperature scale. Local intelligent life forms cheered the launch. Shortly before the blastoff, the government agency responsible for spacecraft, named the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, wrote in the global network of computers: “We are looking at a gorgeous night to launch the Kepler observatory on the first-ever mission dedicated to finding planets like ours outside the solar system.”

A grain of sand: The Gobi Desert has an area of 500,000 square miles. If it represents all of the matter in the cosmos, then living matter is the equivalent of a single grain of sand.Adrienc / Getty Images

The above account might have been written by an intelligent life form located on exactly the kind of distant planet that Kepler would soon begin to search

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