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Friday, November 30, 2007

Another planet: Looking at twin possibilites, and more

I always find myself gravitating toward the latest astronomical stories, so it came as no surprise that I was drawn in to yesterday's pronouncement by scientists that Venus and our home world have a special relationship (see New Findings Underscore an Earth-Venus Kinship from the New York Times).

The European Space Agency used the analogy of "twins separated at birth" to grab headlines for the conclusions taken from their Venus Express spacecraft's data transmissions. The two planets share a similar size and composition, but Venus has surface temperatures in excess of 800°F and a dense atmosphere made up of carbon dioxide.

Venus once had Earth-like oceans, but the water evaporated in the Sun's intense heat and the resulting greenhouse-gas effect trapped more heat creating a feedback loop that generated the planet's current smog-like cloud cover. If our current carbon emissions continue unabated, the Earth may find itself spinning toward a similarly hazy future.

The Euro-scientists' twin reference is an interesting one and hearkens me back to the countless science-fiction renderings of parallel universes and through-the-looking-glass scenarios. As a kid, I watched a TV movie about an astronaut who when shot into space discovered a mirror Earth on the opposite side of the Sun. The prospect of such a duplicate world captivated my young imagination, offering a vague sense of heavenly second chances.

Of course why stop at two alternatives when there's a quantum theory full of broader probabilities. I'm fond of poetically conjuring the possibility of simultaneously occurring realities; a universe where all potential outcomes exist at once. It may seem a silly fantasy, but it's much easier to accept failure if there's another me or we who can get it right in the end.

Another Girl, Another Planet
by The Only Ones

I always flirt with death
I look ill, but I don't care about it
I can face your threats
And stand up straight and tall and shout about it

I think I'm on another world with you, with you
I'm on another planet with you, with you

You get under my skin
I don't find it irritating
You always play to win
but I won't need rehabilitating

I think I'm on another world with you, with you
I'm on another planet with you, with you
Another girl, another planet
Another girl, another planet

Space travel's in my blood
There ain't nothing I can do about it
Long journeys wear me out
But I know I can't live without it

I think I'm on another world with you, with you
I'm on another planet with you, with you
Another girl is loving you now
Another planet is holding us down
Another planet

(Click here to see a video of the song)
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