Headline, September 11 2020/ THE UNIVERSE : '' GALAXIES ''STUDENTS'' GALACTIC ''




'THE SIRENS OF MARS : Searching for Life on Another World' by Scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson and 'The Smallest Lights in the Universe' : A Memoir by Scientist Sara Seager. 

IN 2013, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the U.S. Congress asked three prominent scientists whether life - aliens or students, if you wish - exist beyond Earth.

''Do your math,'' said Scientist Sara Seager, an astrophysicist from M.I.T.

Ralph Hall, a 90-year-old congressman from Texas, said he couldn't do the math; that was the problem.

The math actually isn't all that complicated. The universe brims with galaxies, a couple of hundred billion at least, and each of these galaxies brims with billions of stars.

Planets - called exoplanets - orbit most of these stars.

As of this writing, we have confirmed the existence of 4,197, but astronomers detect another exoplanet seemingly every few days. Some are gigantic and insanely hot; some have big puffy atmospheres; some climb up over and slip under their stars in polar orbits; some have ''years'' that last only days.   

The universe overflows with worlds. In our galaxy alone, there are about 40 billion planets that could support life. To assume that ours in the only one that hosts living things seems a tad self-absorbed, doesn't it?

Congressman Hall asked,'' Is there life out there?'' ''Yes,'' said Mary Voytek, as astrobiologist at NASA.

''Yes,'' said Steven Dick, a science historian at the Library of Congress.

''Yes,'' said Seager.

Aliens might not be little green people, of course : They might be based on silicon or ammonia, rather than carbon; they might use cosmic rays as an energy source; they might be ghostly microbes paddling around sulfuric pools. As Seager urges in her stark, bewitching new memoir. 

''The Smallest Lights in the Universe,'' we have to shake loose ''of our Earth based biases - our 'terracentraism,'........ that peculiar blindness born of being human.''

Or as the Georgetown planetary scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson puts in her lovely memoir, ''The Sirens of  Mars : Searching for Life on Another World,'' ''Its one of our biggest intellectual and practical challenges - like trying to imagine a color we've never seen.''

In ''The Smallest Lights,'' Seager begins with her almost feral childhood in Toronto, roving streets and and tending younger siblings, often alone, by her own admission, ''small and silent'' and ''wired a little differently''.

At 15, she wandered into a University of Toronto presentation about a supernova and ''sat enthralled in the pin-drop quiet, ravished by an amazing tale of discovery.'' She promptly threw herself into advanced math and canoeing with equal gusto, fell in love with a paddling partner named Mike -

Attended a graduate school at Harvard, was awarded a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. and developed a  new technique for detecting exoplanets and analyzing their atmospheres. Tenured at M.I.T. by the time she was 36, she connected a lifelong hunt for a second Earth.

Then, Mike got sick and died, and Seager, now a widowed mother of two, came unglued. The merciless seesaw of her grief makes for harrowing reading : 

''Hour by hour,'' she writes, ''I felt either broken or bulletproof.'' In time, a group of six other widows, meeting every other Friday, ''moving from house to house like emotional squatters,'' gradually helped Seager return to the world.

The second half of her story gleams with insights into what it means to lose a partner in midlife, and just as the widows helped Seager feel less alone, her story is sure to help any readers grappling with a similar loss.

''When you lose someone,'' she writes, ''you don't lose them all at once, and their dying doesn't stop with their death. You lose them a thousand times in a thousand ways. You say a thousand goodbyes. You hold a thousand funerals.''

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Great Scientists of Astrophysics, continues. The World Students Society thanks review author, Anthony Doerr.

With respectful dedication to Grandparents, Parents, Students, professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011:

''' Lamps - Lights '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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