Nobel laureate in physics: “We will never live on exoplanets”
The Nobel laureate in physics in 2019, astrophysicist Michel Mayor, is convinced that space is teeming with life and habitable planets. Therefore, the statement about exoplanets, which is a result of his long experience, also attracts the attention of scientists.
We understand the distance to the next street corner
The brain can usually understand that it is 500 meters to the next street corner. It can also understand that it is 10,722 kilometres between New York and Beijing and that one lap around the earth is 40,075 kilometres. The ability to scale up and down in numbers - and understand the meaning of them - can be found in Wernice's and Broca's areas of the brain. These areas are also known as the speech centre.
Research indicates that the more times our brain processes a number or value in different contexts, the better the brain understands the speech.
Therefore, we have easy to understand what five meters is, that living has atomic number five, that we have five fingers and that a basketball team consists of five players. But we basically cannot understand the meaning that we need to travel the equivalent of 26 billion times around the earth to arrive at k2-18 b.
“Put down all the statements that say, ‘Okay, it’s only to move to another planet when the earth can’t live on.’. “
This disappointing statement gave Michel Mayor the AFP news agency, and he based it on something straightforward – and at the same time astronomically incomprehensible:
Astrophysicist Michel Mayor was awarded the award for discovering in 1995 the first exoplanet orbiting a star other than the sun. Since then, astronomers have mapped just over 4,000 exoplanets in the universe.
Common to all is that they are beyond human reach, says the Nobel laureate.
The journey to k2-18 b, which is one of the earth-like planets, can be seen below. It gives an idea of how far the distance is.
The dream is 110 light-years away
Astronomers’ new hope, k2-18b, is an earth-like planet that, according to scientists, has the right size and orbits at the right distance around its star so that it is neither too hot nor too cold. And then there is liquid water.
This means that the conditions for humans to live on k2-18b are the right ones – and they are better than anywhere else in the universe if we ignore our neighbouring planets in the solar system.
The challenge lies in the fact that the desirable exoplanet is 110 light-years away.
If it is to be translated into kilometres, we get an astronomical number. It starts with a light second being 300,000 kilometres.
300,000 X 60 (60 seconds in a minute) X 60 (60 minutes in an hour) X 24 (24 hours in a day) X 365 (365 days in a year) X 110 (the number of years the light is to travel before it reaches k2-18 b) =
1 040 688 000 000 000 kilometers
Or in pure Swedish: The Earth-like exoplanet is 1,041 billion kilometres away.
A thought experiment
If we use the fastest human-crewed aircraft to arrive and colonize k2-18 b, we will turn on the engines on Saturn V.
This rocket reached a top speed of 39,897 km / h when it flew back from the moon on May 26, 1969.
If we fly with Saturn V at that speed – unobstructed, with the gas at the bottom and endless fuel – it takes us:
1 040 688 000 000 000/39 897/24/365 =
2 977 667 years
In other words – Michel Mayor may be right in his statement:
“We will never live on exoplanets.”