Whose star is rising?
Strange and synchronous moments are like quarks that pulse in and out of the gauzy curtains of time. The latest case in point for me was today when I was reading TMQB, a lengthy column devoted to mostly football by the eclectic and somewhat eccentric Gregg Easterbrook. He knows his football shit and then some. So there I am, cruising through untidy factoids about Brett Favre and Randy Moss and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he drops this:
Are You Descended from a Venusian?
” Venus is the planet most similar to Earth — about the same size as our world, made of similar elements. Closer to the sun, Venus has a surface temperature of around 900 degrees Fahrenheit, almost all its water has boiled off and a runaway greenhouse gas atmosphere causes atmospheric pressure 92 times greater than Earth’s. The planet appears to have no carbon cycle — no plants or geological processes subtract carbon dioxide from the air, as happens here — resulting in a very thick atmosphere. Natural global warming probably killed any Venus life that might have once existed.
Because of these things, cosmologists long have assumed Venus foretells what will happen to the Earth far into the future, when Sol expands before going supernova: Earth’s water will boil off, carbon dioxide will choke the atmosphere, life will end. That’s the distant future, hundreds of millions of years from now, by which time humanity will have either evolved into a higher form or gone extinct anyway.
But if Earth will become like Venus in the future, was Venus like Earth in the past? An eon ago, the sun was faint compared to today and the inner solar system less hot. Here, researchers speculate that a billion years ago, Venus had surface water, lower temperatures and less atmospheric pressure — the planet might have been habitable to the kind of life we know about. Reading this, I thought: What if there was civilization on Venus an ego ago, a civilization that either evolved into a higher form or fell extinct? A billion years later, there is no trace remaining.
Or perhaps far in the past, a civilization on Venus escaped the malfunctioning of its environment by seeding life here, the next planet outward from the sun. So far there’s no clue about how terrestrial life began. Darwinian evolution suggests how organisms that already exist form new species, but Darwin was silent on what created life. Microbes came into being nearly 4 billion years ago, but complex animal life appears to have begun relatively rapidly between 530 and 570 million years ago. Maybe that was the time a Venusian civilization was dying. Maybe we find no clues of the origin of complex biology here because this process began on Venus. Perhaps a billion years from now, thinking beings on a distant world will wonder how their biology became so complex, unaware it was transplanted from the long-dead Earth. ” Read the rest of this entry »