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A few days ago, my boss, Jason Pontin (and editor in chief of Technology Review) posted a blog about the Drake Equation. The post was interesting, and started (as this topic often does) a good discussion.

(Ed. note: The fact that it also prompted a rather humorous phone call from Jason about the response he’d received made me chuckle. You can’t talk about aliens without getting a huge response.)

So when I came across this article today – about the inherent issues with creating and sustaining life outside a laboratory – I thought it pertinent to post:

Professor David Catling at Bristol University, along with colleagues at the University of Washington and NASA, contend that significant oxygen in the air and oceans is essential for the evolution of multicellular organisms, and that on Earth the time required for oxygen levels to reach a point where animals could evolve was almost four billion years.

Since four billion years is almost half the anticipated life-time of our Sun, life on other planets orbiting short-lived suns may not have enough time to evolve into complex forms.

Within 15 minutes today, I’ve had two promising science-fiction themes blasted out of the water: no time travel and no aliens.

Of course, I realize these are just intellectual musings, and not necessarily definitive proof of anything. Even so, it’s still deflating to believe that there is even a remote possibility that we are, indeed, alone in the vast wasteland of space.

It must be, I can only surmise, a similar feeling to those who lose faith in God. After all, an epiphany that ‘we are all alone’ is not one that inspires.

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