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This is an introduction to “The Privileged Planet” video series. It highlights the story of the voyager space craft which took pictures of the outer reaches of the solar system. One small point of light was photographed from nearly four billion miles away, the earth as seen from the voyager’s point of view. “As the world gazed at this pinpoint of light, timeless questions of its meaning purpose and significance suddenly took on more relevance.” (Watch this video)
This chapter provides the historical theories of our planet’s place in the universe. The Copernican principal ignited a revolution in 1543 with the idea that the earth occupies no preferred place in the universe. Edwin Hubble’s discoveries in the 1920’s supported its widespread acceptance. But “does contemporary scientific knowledge actually confirm the Copernican principles primary claim that the earth and the life it sustains exist without purpose or significance in the universe.” (Watch this video)
An outgrowth of the Copernican principal is the theory that life exists in galaxies outside of our own. Are habitable planets rare or common in the universe? These are questions of astrobiologists today. “There are two sides of the equation, there are a lot of stars out there but there are also a lot of factors necessary to support life.” Guillermo Gonzalez, a NASA researcher searching for life outside of our planet continues to probe this equation. (Watch this video)
It is largely recognized that “the composition of water is exquisitely suited for carbon based life.” Liquid water really defines a habitable zone. The earth orbits the sun in a habitable zone. If the earth was 5% closer to the sun it would be too hot and conversely if it were 20% away it would be too cold. “But the recipe for life is much more complex than just add water.” We continue to understand why in the next segment. (Watch this video)
If a recipe for life is more than just adding water, the list of factors continues to grow. Just as in real estate, the old saying holds true, “location, location, location.” The earth occupies the right location in the galaxy; it is the right distance from the sun, orbiting the right kind of star, list goes on. The probability (by conservative estimation) to match all the factors needed simultaneously to support is one tenth of one trillionth. “But does the probability that our planet is rare support the idea of its significance?” (Watch this video)
“The entire universe is highly hostile to life,” says author of the book, “Rare Earth,” by Donald Brownlee. There is no place in the universe that can compare to earth. We live in a very special environment that provides just what we need: air, food, and conditions to support life. The real question is why did this happen? Was it just luck or did the earth come about for a purpose? (Watch this video)
In this chapter, a total eclipse of the sun is observed from India. The solar eclipse exhibits the near perfect relationship between the sun and the moon. This rare occurrence provides scientists abundant information into how the stars work. “The best place in the entire universe to view solar eclipses is from the surface of the earth. It is an amazing coincidence that the one place that has observers is the place you have the best eclipses.” (Watch this video)
This chapter presents the hypothesis, “What if those things that make a planet habitable also make it the best place to make scientific discoveries?” In the book, “The Privileged Planet” the authors write that “the same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best overall setting for making scientific discoveries.” (Watch this video)
Another unique feature of our planet is the atmosphere. Beyond solar eclipses, the earth’s atmosphere it unique as it sustains life on our planet. On the spectrum of magnetic frequencies, the type of rays the sun produces in abundance is the type of radiation that most easily filters through our atmosphere and is useful for photosynthesis. Observing yet another unique physical characteristic to our planet, the question is again asked, “Why would the place that is most habitable also offer the best chances for scientific discovery?” (Watch this video)
In chapter 10, scientists research the earth’s special position in our galaxy. A position either too far or too close from the center of the galaxy would make for uninhabitable conditions. They hypothesized that the earth’s position was uniquely placed in a “galactic habitable zone.” Not only does this position allow habitability but it is “surprisingly” located to make scientific observation, and in “this case on a galactic scale.” (Watch this video)
The idea of “fine tuning” is discussed in this chapter. If even one of the physical constants was changed slightly the effect on complex life would be catastrophic. Both Einstein and Copernicus comment on the design of our universe…
“I have deep faith that the laws of the universe will be both beautiful and simple” -Albert Einstein.
“The mechanism of the universe wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator… the system, the best and most orderly artist of all framed for our sake.” – Copernicus