Monday, April 18, 2016

Microstory 301: Atmosphere

There is no lack of planets in this universe. Why, in this galaxy alone, there are hundreds of billions of stars, with an average of between one and two planets each. Ten billion of these are supposed to be terrestrial, rather than gaseous like Jupiter. Out of these, not all would be composed of an atmosphere comparable to Earth’s. There are probably only about 500 million of those. But that doesn’t mean there should be 500 million kinds of aliens spinning around out there. Even though these planets are capable of sustaining life, they’re not necessarily capable of sustaining evolutionary life. You wouldn’t believe just how many things had to go right on this planet in order to make you a thing that exists. Humans have yet to quantify the unlikely circumstances. Temperature, gravity, pressure, gaseous composition, distance from the sun, solar size, and many more things had to line up perfectly to create life intelligent enough to write a list like that. There’s this argument called the Fermi Paradox which wonders why we’ve not encountered aliens, because there should be a lot of them. But that’s not a paradox. It’s a question. Just because you don’t know the answer to something, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. There are any number of explanations for why we feel so alone. And it all starts with our atmosphere. It has the perfect amount of oxygen to keep us breathing, and to stop insects from being terrifyingly gigantic. The way the wind moves determined the shape of this rock, and regulates our climate. The gaseous composition is vital to our survival. Change the ratios even by a little, and it spells disaster, which is actually what we’re going through right now. Next time you go outside, thank the atmosphere for keeping everything in place.


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