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Space Science

Earth's 'Bigger, Older Cousin' Maybe Doesn't Even Exist (npr.org) 52

Ever since astronomers started to detect planets beyond our solar system, they've been trying to find another world just like Earth. And few years ago, they announced that they'd found a planet that was the closest match yet -- Kepler-452b. Trouble is, some astronomers now say it's not possible to know for sure that this planet actually exists. From a report: "There's new information that we can now quantify which tells us something that we didn't know before," says Fergal Mullally, who used to be an astronomer on the science team for NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. In 2015, NASA declared that Kepler-452b was the first near-Earth-sized planet orbiting in the "habitable" zone around a star very similar to our sun. The space agency called it Earth's "bigger, older cousin," and scientists were so enthusiastic that one began quoting poetry at a news conference. The original science wasn't shoddy, Mullally says. It's just that, since then, researchers have learned more about the telescope's imperfections.

Earth's 'Bigger, Older Cousin' Maybe Doesn't Even Exist

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  • The inhabitants of Kepler-452a all turn their washing machines on at the same time and thus the lights dimmed. This is the dangers of solar power that nobody warns you about! ;)

  • by theCat ( 36907 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @06:39PM (#56598600) Journal

    All this excitement, I know what you're thinking, and you apes need to start taking better care of what is likely the only planet in the entire universe capable of supporting life.

    Ref; Fermi's Paradox.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Well, that's one explanation of Fermi's Paradox. But I think the more likely ones are that star travel is inherently immensely dangerous, or that technological civilizations tend to destroy themselves.

      You explanation is actually the more hopeful one, but unless a double planet (i.e. a moon based tidal system) is necessary to life, it seems a rather unlikely one.

      • by theCat ( 36907 )

        Parsimony probably wins this one; positing that "space travel is dangerous" requires 1) life on other worlds, that 2) advance to the point of recognizing "space" and then 3) develop machines of a complexity to fly in any manner at all, and then 4) decide that "space flight" sounds cool, and that they 5) find a way to do that, while not 6) at the same time wrecking themselves with some other marvelous machine they made, such that 7) they reach space and venture anywhere beyond low orbit, enough to 8) be murd

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          No. Positing that interstellar travel is inherently dangerous doesn't require assuming that anyone ever tried it. So that argument's invalid.

          And postulating that technological civilizations tend to destroy themselves it an independent variable also. We only have one example, it's a bit of a ways from even it's first interstellar flight, and we've already come within 30 seconds of all out nuclear war. This is not to exclude the various other dangers that we've been doing a drunkards walk around. If you

  • The fundamental thing that everyone should understand about science -- and most people don't -- is that science is nothing more and nothing less than an error correction process.

    Everything we know is wrong, at least in some way and in some degree. Science is the process by which we identify errors and fix them, but science is itself an error-prone process and all scientific results are erroneous, at least in some way and in some degree. The fact that errors are discovered is not evidence that science doesn't work, it's evidence that science does work, that it identifies and corrects humanity's errors -- including those generated by previous science.

    What makes science works is that although we always introduce new errors in our understanding when we correct old errors in our understanding, the new errors are nearly always smaller. We approach the truth iteratively and asymptotically, getting ever closer but never arriving.

    And if anyone ever tells you that science is pointless because scientists "keep changing their minds", you need only point at the wealth, comfort and plenty in which we live, as compared to the poverty, hardship and scarcity in which our ancestors lived, just a few generations ago. The fact that science has not yet achieved perfection doesn't mean it doesn't work, it just means it's not yet done (and it will *never* be done; there will always be more errors to correct).

    • by theCat ( 36907 )

      Well reasoned.

      I suggest the mechanism by which we (in the West, at least) enjoy the wealth, comfort and plenty in which we live, as compared to the poverty, hardship and scarcity in which our ancestors lived, is not because of science per se but because of easy access to fossil fuels. I am a field Biologist, and I am the first to admit to this reality. We've come a long way indeed, but primarily because we secured for ourselves a lot more free energy to play with than the ones came before us.

      That era may be

      • Well reasoned.

        I suggest the mechanism by which we (in the West, at least) enjoy the wealth, comfort and plenty in which we live, as compared to the poverty, hardship and scarcity in which our ancestors lived, is not because of science per se but because of easy access to fossil fuels.

        Bah. Science gave us a lot of progress before we began using fossil fuels, and is providing alternative energy sources, as well as methods to be more efficient, for after we stop using them.

      • That might also explain why, if there is life on other planets, we haven't heard from it. We're lucky enough to have access to reasonably easy to obtain energy sources. If not for that, we wouldn't have the technology to be attempting to communicate with other planets. We'd still be stuck in the 18th century. While there was plenty of intelligent life on earth in the 18th century, it wasn't in any position to be broadcasting or receiving messages from other planets.

        Just because a planet evolves intelligent

    • by dfghjk ( 711126 )

      "The fact that errors are discovered is not evidence that science doesn't work, it's evidence that science does work, that it identifies and corrects humanity's errors -- including those generated by previous science."

      No it's not. Identifying errors is not evidence of science even it applying scientific principles may lead to identifying errors. A scientist would understand this.

      The fact is it's pretty shitty science when a scientist doesn't even understand his own tools. All this bloviating serves only to

      • Utter nonsense. There are always errors in scientific work. In fact, much of the detail work in science is exactly identifying and controlling for errors... and it is not always done perfectly. Also, the value of peer review and replication is to provide opportunities to identify and correct errors in the original work. If it were possible to do perfect work, that wouldn't be necessary.
      • "The fact that errors are discovered is not evidence that science doesn't work, it's evidence that science does work, that it identifies and corrects humanity's errors -- including those generated by previous science."

        No it's not. Identifying errors is not evidence of science even it applying scientific principles may lead to identifying errors. A scientist would understand this.

        The fact is it's pretty shitty science when a scientist doesn't even understand his own tools. All this bloviating serves only to hide the issue.

        I'm glad someone pointed that out. It's a hermetically sealed defense. "No matter how bad our science was, that proves it was actually great!"

        • No matter how bad our science was, that proves it was actually great!

          You're switching between two different uses of science there. Your first use, "science", was referring to the data of the previous study. But what the OP meant by "it" was the scientific process in general.

      • The alternative is to not admit to any errors, when there are. Which is not scientific at all.

        Your position is self-contradictory.

        Science works because it admits errors and works to identify and fix them. Even trying to remove errors before proceeding is still having to admit errors and identifying them. You can't wait for perfect knowledge before working on the science, because the science wouldn't exist at all.
        • You said the same thing I did, in different words. I'd have thought that you were just agreeing with me, except for your line about my position being self-contradictory. I'm confused.
  • I've long contemplated that we are just speculating from electromagnetic radiation that falls on us. What we confidently think we know about what's beyond our neighborhood, we do not really know.
  • The science is se

    The original science wasn't shoddy, Mullally says. It's just that, since then, researchers have learned more about the telescope's imperfections

    What was that about carpenters and their tools?

    • by dfghjk ( 711126 )

      Someone gets it. You're not a scientist when you fundamentally don't know what you're looking at because you don't understand your tools.

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