back to article Alien Earths are out there: Our home is not 'unique'

New research suggests planets similar to our Earth are much more common across the galaxy than previously thought. And the boffins behind this revelation have also come up with a simple chemical recipe for creating habitable worlds suitable for use by advanced super-powered intelligences and/or deities etc. "Our solar system …

  1. Graham 24

    According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

    "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

    1. GBE

      Re: According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

      "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

      True for me, but not in the way that AC seemed to think. I find neither option terrifying at all.

      I find the former much _sadder_ than the latter. I'm much happier thinking there is other life out there (though I'm not really sure why). Due to the vast distances involved, I don't see why we would have anything to fear from extra-terrestrial life.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

        With apologies...

        There are two type of statement. Those that can be verified and those that cannot.

        Not uniquely positioned in relation to a young star, perhaps.

        Evidence for Earth not being unique in general simply does not exist.

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

          With apologies...

          There are two type of statistician. Those that can extrapolate from insufficient data.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

          All Earth-like planets are unique, just like all the other planets.

          (Assuming a finite universe.)

      2. GaryB_

        Re: According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

        Main problem is alien scams and spyware. You think Nigerians are bad.

    2. Palf

      Re: According to a certain Mr Arthur C Clarke...

      That's SIR Arthur C. Clarke to you, minion

  2. Shrimpling

    2 cups oxygen

    How do you keep the Oxygen in the cup?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: 2 cups oxygen

      Destroy the planet to make some cling film - sorted!

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: 2 cups oxygen

        "2 cups of oxygen"

        Phew : For a minute there I thought that someone was going to comment that life began with 2 girls and a cup.

        1. Gordon 10

          Re: 2 cups oxygen

          Don't you mean 2 atoms 1 cup?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    "A thin frosting of life"

    This is considered by connoiseurs to be the tastiest part.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "A thin frosting of life"

      ... and particularly attractive to any wandering Mutant Star Goats in the neighbourhood.

  4. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Nice simple recipe

    But did you check with the Magratheans?

    1. Ashton Black

      Re: Nice simple recipe

      They couldn't afjord the fees.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Nice simple recipe

        mice one, Ashton.

      2. Graham 24

        Re: Nice simple recipe

        Even if you could afford it, the cost would certainly put a Dent in your bank balance...

        1. Simon Harris

          Re: Nice simple recipe

          ... and the cup would have to be about a Trillian Trillian times larger than the ones in my kitchen.

    2. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Nice simple recipe

      Will there be award-winning fjords?

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Nice simple recipe

        It will be perilous, but we will have a whale of a time playing crickit.

  5. bill 27

    I think your

    spell checker needs a tuneup. "as any fule kno"?

    1. Martin

      Re: I think your

      Google nigel molesworth and al will become clere.

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        @ Martin - Re: I think your

        Thank you. I've often wondered about the origin of that but never got around to actually checking. Have an upvote.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: @ Martin - I think your

          Until now, I'd always assumed it was "B.A. Baracus (Mr. T)" from "The A team"

  6. Graham 24

    The final step

    Once your new plant has cooled, carefully bounce a Mars-sized object into it.

    This will, in Theia-ry, break a bit off which will then go into orbit around your new planet.

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: The final step

      Lunatic idea

    2. Mike 16

      Re: The final step

      "God does not place dice with the Universe" - Einstein

      "He does, however, enjoy Billiards" - Velikovsky

    3. Simon Harris

      Re: The final step

      "carefully bounce a Mars-sized object into it."

      Watch it doesn't spin off into the Milky Way though.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: The final step

        If you hit the planet dead-center you will be ineligible to collect your Bounty.

  7. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    No carbon?

    I sense the rise of silicon-based life-forms...

  8. Uffish

    And it's supposed to work?

    Shove in a few million meteors' worth of the other elements and a galaxy size lump of good luck and you might stand a chance.

    1. James 36

      Re: And it's supposed to work?

      as long as it is a million to one chance it cannot fail

      1. VinceH

        Re: And it's supposed to work?

        Indeed. If it's a million to one chance, then nine out of ten planetary systems will be inhabited.

        1. Uffish

          Re: And it's supposed to work?

          No idea whether the simple recipe described will almost guarantee that all the other elements will naturally be present in earthish ratios but if they say that there are lots of earth size, weight, temperature, chemical composition planets out there well, that's great.

          But how many will have lifeforms up and working? Is that likely, or are there just a lot of wet, rocky planets in the universe.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: And it's supposed to work?

            Do the lifeforms have to be up and working? Maybe they're creatures of leisure who have figured the robot problem to do the work?

            And if the wet, rocky planets are anything like my backyard, they're covered in moss. <sigh>

          2. dan1980

            Re: And it's supposed to work?


            "No idea whether the simple recipe described will almost guarantee that all the other elements will naturally be present in earthish ratios . . ."

            And why would they have to be? We have evolved to require small amount so stuff like magnesium and cobalt and so forth but other animals on earth don't necessarily need those, depending on where they evolved. There's no reason to believe that, once the basic 'organic' blocks are there, life would evolve to use and require whatever spread of elements are available, just as we have and the other inhabitants of Earth have.

  9. Chris G

    Kitchen of the gods

    I am sure I remember reading somewhere that not only was the Lunatic fringe important but so is a little Seasoning in the recipe, not to mention a bag full of trace elements without which even quite fundamental cells don't work.

  10. Florida1920

    They haven't looked in the back of my fridge

    Earth-esque life thrives there in the cold recesses. So far, all attempts at communication have failed. Frustrating, as I really want to ask it if the light stays on when I close the door.

  11. Chris 239

    Giant Turtle

    At first glance I thought that planet was sitting of top of a Giant Turtle, couldn't see any elephants though....

  12. Chris G

    The elephants are off skiing on their winter holidays.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      The elephants are off skiing on their winter holidays.

      Correct. This time of year, to see the elephants, you have to observe the planets with HARPS-South.

      Of course, from there they'll look upside-down. Flip the picture over and all becomes clear.


  13. Denarius Silver badge

    About disappearing Hadean ?

    so the earliest zircons showing early Earth was cool and wet don't count in this speculation ?

  14. sisk

    Bake for a few million years?

    Darn my lack of foresight. I guess I won't be using this recipe for dinner tonight.

    1. Mark Exclamation

      Re: Bake for a few million years?

      Here's one I prepared earlier......

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Bake for a few million years?

        So. The supper's ready?

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Not for me then

    I always seem to mess up on any recipe I try. This one could be a little risky!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    If you are lucky, a thin frosting of life may appear...

    Big deal--this happens all the time with leftovers in my fridge.

  17. Faux Science Slayer

    If at first you don't succeed....skip sky diving.

    Only a brain dead moron would make this 'not unique' assertion....EARTH IS VERY UNIQUE.

    Earth is the same distance from the Sun, yet is 200C cooler than the hottest temperature on the Moon and 75C warmer than the coolest temperature on the Moon. This is due to the atmosphere, the 310 million cubic miles of ocean and internal fission of 2 million cubic mile of Uranium and Thorium. In addition to internal heat, nuclear decay provides a stream of elemental atoms and compounds, replenishing the planet. The wingspan of flying insects and reptiles during the Jurassic was double that of today because the atmosphere was four times the current density. The atmosphere is under constant erosion from solar wind and nuclear decay. Earth had a magnetosphere that limits particle beam exposure and Ozone to limit UV exposure. There are dozens of critical components necessary for life 'as we know it' on Earth, and only a simpleton would reduce this to a few parameters.

    See "Greenhouse Gas Ptolemaic Model" for more unique Earth factors.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: If at first you don't succeed....skip sky diving.

      I hope you're not committing suicide. Anyway, don't know whether the nuclear decay ... replenishing the plant is really a requirement, for kicking off the evolution the ionizing radiation certainly didn't harm. But why, e.g., would flying insects need larger wingspans in a more dense atmosphere?

      1. Wilseus

        Re: If at first you don't succeed....skip sky diving.

        why, e.g., would flying insects need larger wingspans in a more dense atmosphere?

        They wouldn't, and anyway I'm not aware that the Earth did have a denser atmosphere then. Arthropods (and not just flying insects) back then did grow much larger than today but this was because the atmosphere contained a much larger proportion of oxygen.

    2. DocJames

      Re: If at first you don't succeed....skip sky diving.


      Nothing is "very" unique. Things can be unique or not, but there are no graduations of "uniqueness".

      And I disagree with you, but that's not what got the downvote.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: If at first you don't succeed....skip sky diving.

      FSS just gets better and better. He may not be as ... er ... unique a kook as Amanfrommars1, or as vitriolic as Eadon (of blessed memory), but his crazy soapbox grandstanding has a certain "they said I was mad!" flair.

      If he keeps this up, maybe the Reg should assemble a Best of FSS collection. Actually, a site Best of Trolls and Kooks article for a Friday or holiday season might be a nice complement to the traditional FotW and the like.

      Now I'm getting nostalgic for the net.kooks of Ye Olde Usenet. There used to be a good Net.Kookery museum site - I should try to find it.

    4. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: If at first you don't succeed....skip sky diving.

      Earth is not only not unique, it's only marginally habitable. Maybe you should learn some science.

      Earth: it's actually kind of a shit place to live.

      1. LaeMing

        Re: Earth: it's actually kind of a shit place to live.

        Especially since humanity showed up.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What alien race would want to communicate with us?

    We still use strands of copper for critical systems.

    1. Alien8n

      Re: What alien race would want to communicate with us?

      Not round here, BT was being extremely stingy and used copper plated aluminium...

  19. Little Mouse Silver badge

    A simple shortcut

    Rather than waiting "a few more millions of years" for life to appear, might I suggest the use of a great big melting pot, big enough to take the world and all it's got?

    It should only take a hundred years or so for literally 20's of people to appear. The lack of racial diversity might be an issue in the long term though.

  20. 2nobel2014

    They forgot about blasting the Earth and inserting a chunk of electron-degenerate matter - as the core. This creates the conditions for magnetic fields/shields on the Earth which keeps all life, well living! But that would truly be an unique circumstance (one of a kind?) - and that doesn't fit their narrative ...

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Electron degenerate matter? Wut? The pressure at the center of the earth isn't remotely that high. It's just a blob of iron, nickle and some radioactives doing the turny woo-woo due to being a liquid, initial rotational speed and some convective forces.

      If there were electron degenerate matter at the center of the Earth very shortly thereafter there would be no more Earth.

  21. Tahuaya

    I believe on many of those planets there is intelligent life and I also believe that on those planets with intelligent life, there are individuals who believe they are made in the image of God and I also believe, all those intelligent beings on all of those planets, all look different.

  22. Chands

    I'm sure I've seen a Brian Cox episode where they've essentially deduced that there are in fact billions of planets out there that can support life. However, we are still unique, because we are *so far* the only detectable planet that is actually inhabited with intelligent life forms.

    Although, I'd argue looking at the human race and calling us intelligent.

    1. lorisarvendu

      Rare Earth

      "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe" by Ward & Brownlee is a very interesting read, and good introduction to relatively new field of Astrobiology.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Rare Earth

        Earth not only isn't rare, it's barely habitable. Look up superhabitability and learn a bit about why Earth is actually kind of shit.

        1. illiad

          Re: Rare Earth

          HUH!! Its a bit like your friend getting a £1mil house, and you thinking he is a millionaire... Soooo WRONG!!!

          - He is actually *poorer*, he now owes the **bank/lender** £1mill, and has to work his butt off to repay it...

          This shit-ball is **all** we have, unless you know how to travel 5 - 12 light years easily enough ... And possibly find its NOT as habitable as thought, or have aggressive occupants...

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: Rare Earth

            Being the only shitball we currently have doesn't make it any less shit.

  23. AndrueC Silver badge

    Although by the sound of it, any super-intelligent hive mind civilisation, collection of beings of pure light or similar that might have the astro kitchen to actually follow this recipe might not bother.

    I think that any super advanced civilisation will build its own space habitats and largely ignore worlds with natural ecosystems. The damn' things are so fragile and getting goods up from the bottom of a gravity well is such a drag. Far better to build an orbital. You control the thermostat if you want to leave it you just walk off the edge.

  24. smartypants

    Super Intelligent Hive Mind Shocker

    Freed of the short-term perspective of biological creatures, it realises that the universe is going to come to an end and with it, whatever glorious empire they might have attempted to erect in the reflection of their own importance, and that instead, it'd be better to concentrate on gardening!

  25. ravenviz Silver badge

    Earthish-sized worlds?

    Earthsized-ish, surely?

  26. Derichleau

    What about the moon?

    On a BBC science programme the other week they were saying that the moon had a massive impact on life on earth and my have contributed to getting life started. Do these similar planets also have a moon like ours then?

    1. LaeMing

      Re: What about the moon?

      The moon's benefits don't really require a moon. Any nearby strong gravity well in (relative) motion would likely do just fine for driving tidal forces throughout the body. While earth-sized planets with large moons may be somewhat rare, titan-sized moons orbiting gas giants seem likely to be quite common. The Giants (presuming they have moons like all ours do) even show up often enough in 'green-belt' zones of stars.

      Local panspermia would pretty much ensure all the moons of a green-belt gas giant would get life of some similar form (relative to the local atmosphere depending on local gravity &c) within a short while of life popping up on the first (probably most favourable) one. Would make a rather interesting local system to live in, especially since you might end up with another habitable world within 1970s-Earth technological reach.

      ^^ All speculation, of course!

  27. Frosted Flake

    I am certain there are other inhabited planets.

    Because I am certain I am on the wrong one.

  28. JokerZero

    Missing an ingredient

    Won't that recipe call for some Carbon if you want any kind of biology we can anticipate to work?

  29. GaryB_

    Tectonics ... d'oh!

    You missed Uranium! W/o internal radioactive decay, the earth would cool and tectonics stop. The continents and other material would wear down, minerals disperse, magnetic core would solidfy and fade and the planet would die w/o the recycling services provided by plate tectonics provided by the heat engine of radioactive decay. You must mix in some radioactive material, but not too much!

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