The universe has no obligation to create anything more than rocks, yet life managed to make a grand entrance on at least one tiny pale blue dot in a truly spectacular way. The Earth has been orbiting the sun for 4.5 billion years and has rotated well over a trillion cycles. The solar system itself has carried it past other stars, journeying around the galactic core over a dozen times now. In all of that time, Earth has avoided cosmic rays and supernova that could have stripped away the atmosphere, oceans, and life in an instant. Something about our planet has made it an ideal place for life to evolve and one day contemplate its own existence.
I refer a quote from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where the ‘Q’ entity is teaching Captain Picard yet another lesson. Q transports the captain back in time to a primordial hellish Earth. As volcanoes spew lava all around them with a bleak sky overhead, Q kneels down and dips his hand in a pond of a thick oily substance nestled alongside a massive rock outcropping.
Q says to Picard, “See this? This is you. I'm serious! Right here, life is about to form on this planet for the very first time. A group of amino acids is to combine to form the first protein.” Picard squints down as if he can actually discern this activity.
Q continues, “Strange, isn’t it? Everything you know, your entire civilization, it all begins right here in a little pond of goo.”
Out of all the theorized habitable planets, it could be that 99.99% which have life’s signature only ever produce goo. Earth may be the end result of a grand natural experiment tucked away in a quiet suburban corner of the galaxy. We should feel lucky to have won the cosmic lottery. Let’s find out what those winning factors mean then for the rest of the cosmos.