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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dumb Daily Dvorsky: Uninhabitable Edition

Still stinking up the place at io9, George Dvorsky proposes:
Our Earth feels like a warm and welcoming place for us life forms, but beyond our little planet, the majority of the solar system is too cold for us to live comfortably. But a new study suggests that planets in other solar systems might be more habitable than our own because, on the whole, they would be warmer -- up to 25 % warmer. This would make them more geologically active, and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form. In turn, the "Goldilocks Zone" around other stars -- the habitable region -- would be bigger than the Zone in our own Solar System.
The scientifically relevant question of habitability as such should not be prejudiced by initial assumptions that only terrestrial life counts as life, so the article's premise is pernicious. The technologically relevant question of human habitability depends on actual accessibility: There is no question of living in a place you can't get to, and we can't get to any of these planets. This is quite apart from the fact that no literal planets are actually even under discussion in Dvorsky's piece for us to pinpoint the impossibility of our arrival at any of them anyway, since these "planets" are all "suggestions." And so, the article's premise is not only pernicious but also superfluous. Oh, George!

I am setting aside the fairly obvious quibbles that increased geological activity doesn't even suggest on its own let alone ensure the existence of liquid water to retain in the first place, and that increased heat nudging the "Goldilocks Zone" outward doesn't exactly render it more capacious, just more distant. As always, the Robot Cultist's extrasolar fixation invites endless nonsensical leaps of this kind, since the point of the exercise is not in fact habitation but distraction from the demands of our actual habitation. (It is no surprise that the Very Serious Futurologists at the stealth Robot Cult outfit IEET snapped up this bit of Dvorsky escapism for republication in a flash.)

Of course, to offer a variation on Dvorsky's first sentence, our earth is actually feeling warmer and less welcoming all the time because of the short sighted greed and aggression of extractive-industrial corporate-militarism. The endless circulation and amplification of the earth-alienated vantage of techno-fixated futurological disdain of the earth we are evolved to flourish in and were born responsible to as nothing but "a rock we need to get off or we're doomed" -- a sentiment usually accompanying articles making claims like this one, and almost inevitably appearing in their comments if not in the article itself, not to mention its implication in Very Serious think-tank position papers premised on the economic "escape hatch" of endless growth and advertisements promoting the existential "escape hatch" of heedless consumption -- is no small part of the reason why we collaborate in this criminal suicidal genocidal planecidal madness.

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