The Roman poet Lucretius believed in “other worlds in other parts of the universe, with races of different men and different animals.” Also, ancient Native Americans -- who settled this region of the central Oregon coast at Stonefield Beach -- pointed to “another Earth” in the sky. Leaders in astrobiology, who’ve studied the “native peoples” in this region, said they believe a true Earth twin might be revealed soon. In the new book “Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets,” renowned astronomer Ray Jayawardhana, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, states that the discovery “soon” of other Earths will “trigger paradigm shifts not only in science but also in many other human endeavors, from the arts to religion.”
“We will see ourselves differently,” writes Professor Jayawardhana. “That dramatic moment is no longer a remote possibility: it may well occur in our lifetime, in not sooner, in 2011.”
“Another Earth” is art imitating real life and real science
“Another Earth” is not a film that you would see at the local strip mall or multiplex. “It’s one of those art films that really imitates what’s happening in real science right now,” says Todd, a University of Oregon student who recently saw the film in nearby Eugene, and studies the stars here at this far west vantage point that Stonefield Beach offers.
The film “Another Earth” recently won the Alfred P. Sloan Price at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival for “focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character.”
The film features an MIT student named Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) who’s notices a planet on the horizon. Leaning out of her window for a better look, she hits a car and kills two members of a family in it. She’s then sent to jail for four years. Upon her release, she seeks out the widower of the family and the “other Earth.”
“The planet she saw is a mirror planet of Earth, seemingly to the extent that it even has the same people on it, and an essay contest is held where the winner can ride a space shuttle to visit it. As the planet moves closer to Earth, Rhoda considers the possibility of visiting it to find out what kind of life her mirror self would have led. Meanwhile, she is developing an increasingly intimate relationship with John without revealing her true identity to him,” stated a marketing overview of the film that was released to the public.
The real other Earth is out there waiting to be discovered
The hunt to find a true Earth-like world (since man has done a good job of almost ruining this one) goes one, writes Professor Jayawardhana in his new book “Strange New Worlds” published by the famed Princeton University Press that also published some Albert Einstein’s work.
Professor Jayawardhana points to recent scientific discoveries in 2011 “that are challenging our view of the cosmos, and casting new light on the origins and evolution of planets and planetary systems.”
The professor also reveals how “technology is rapidly advancing to support direct observations of Jupiter-like gas giants and super-Earths – rocky planets with several times the mass of our own planet – and how astronomers use biomarkers to seek possible life on other worlds.”
While UFO sightings are increasing worldwide, Jayawardhana notes that “this is no accident” because a shift is taking place where the “cutting-edge science of today’s planet hunters means there are good prospects for discovering alien life.”
SETI experiments growing in scope and sophistication in 2011
In his new book about the quest to find alien life, Professor Jayawardhana explains how the SETI effort “came of age when the first 42 dishes of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) were activated in late 2007.”
Located in Hat Creek Valley in rural northern California, and funded in part by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, “the ATA is optimized for SETI but is now also being used for conventional radio astronomy.”
Professor Jayawardhana said the goal is to “grow to 350 dishes,” and improving its sensitivity to weaker signals that may be coming from alien life in farther star systems.
“In many ways, the search for habitable extrasolar planets and SETI are complementary approaches to addressing the same fundamental question: are we alone?”
In turn, the professor and other world experts in ufology think “that life outside Earth is fairly common, but intelligent life is rare.”
“On the other hand, it seems absurd, if not arrogant, to think that we are the only technological civilization in the Galaxy, given 200 billion other suns, the apparent ubiquity of planets, and the cosmic abundance of life’s ingredients,” he adds.
When the big day of First Contact comes, it will “change everything”
Professor Jawawardhana writes in his new book “if life can spring up on two planets independently, why not on a thousand, or even a million?”
He believes the “implications of finding out for sure that ours isn’t the only inhabited world are nothing short of astounding: it will trigger paradigm shifts not only in science but also in many other human endeavors, from the arts to religion. We will see ourselves differently. That dramatic moment is no longer a remote possibility: it may happen very soon.”
In fact, the professor and other leading world astronomers believe “a true Earth twin might be revealed soon.”
Answers to extraterrestrial life found in Earth’s past
“Human beings have speculated about other worlds and extraterrestrial life for millennia, if not longer,” writes Professor Jawawardhana who says repeatedly reminds readers that “astronomers expect to find alien Earths by the dozens in orbit around distant suns.”
The professor also muses over “how we will find E.T.”
For instance, the professor notes how “scientists got to do a trial run in 2008 for this quest to find E.T., when the ‘Deep Impact’ spacecraft looked back at the Earth from tens of millions of kilometers away, after it had completed its original mission to a comet.”
In turn, Deep Impact sent a probe with cameras to observe the Earth “in seven colors over the course of a day as different parts of the planet rotated into view.”
The result was a “strange twin Earth” that was seen and then not seen.
In the meantime, the professor reminds the world that “the ultimate goal of astrobiology is to detect and characterize extraterrestrial life,” that that “ultimate goal is now well underway worldwide with “results expected soon."
The professor believes “contact (in the loose sense of the word) will be a significant moment not only for science but for all of us. And that moment is closer than ever.”
Image source of “Another Earth” film promotion image: Wikipedia