Friday, August 26, 2016

Science Hype 

The science news is discovery of a planet 4.25 light years away.  Little is known about it other than it is in the "goldilocks" zone suitable for life.  The media went crazy with this news but it shouldn't have.  It is clear the planet is so far away, any probe traveling less than the speed of light would take tens of thousands of years to get there.  Further, there is no way to tell yet whether the planet has water or oxygen suitable for life as we know it.  All we know is that it rotates a red dwarf star every 11 days and the only reason it is potentially habitable is that its sun is cooler than ours.  It may take years if not decades of astronomical work to flesh out the details of the planet and some might remain hidden given its distance from earth.  Why did the media play up the story?  The scientists did and the media obliged.  Secondly, the media probably didn't understand how far away the planet is, how many trillion miles go into a light year.  Third, how would we communicate to a satellite at such vast distances? Each message would need to travel for 4.25 years to reach the instrument and another 4.25 years for a response.  This is science hype at its worst.  


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