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  • Dr. Fredrick E. Hunt

Rogue Planet

The above is an artist's rendition of Planet CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9. What is so unusual about this object?

Before we explore what we KINDA know, let's review what we do know. There are stars and there are planets. Stars are luminous spheres of plasma held together by their own gravity. Whereas planets are astronomical bodies that orbit a star.*

But this week we, and by we I mean Grenoble Alpes University in France, discovered this object which was first described as a Rogue Planet, but may in fact be a Brown Dwarf Star. A Rogue Planet is a planet that doesn't orbit a star. Now if that's the case, technically a rogue planet isn't a planet at all. While even more shocking, GAU is now saying the above object is a Brown Dwarf, which may or may not be a star, and is only slightly larger than Jupiter.

The object exists, yet it may be beyond classification. Which begs the question, why are scientists so surprised? Why are they surprised by anything anymore? And let me use math to explain my angle.

It is estimated that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. And there are an estimated trillion galaxies. So using even the most conservative estimates, say each star has 3 planets. That's 3 times 100 billion times a trillion = 300 sextillion possible planets. Meaning there's all sorts of imaginable planets. Big, small, close, far, rogue, etc. It's an exciting time as our instrumentation finds all sorts of new celestial bodies every single day. It stands to reason that every planet imaginable exists. It is also a mathematical fact that if the chances of life evolving is 1 in 1 sextillion, which are randomly super-duper long odds, then there has to be 300 planets in the universe with life.

300 sextillion possibilities.

I tell my son all the time "scientists may not find aliens before I die, but they'll find them before you die." Which gives the scientists about 80 years not to make me a liar. If you take 300 sextillion of anything, you are going to get a very wide spectrum of results.

And this is dumb ol' me thinking out loud. Just this week Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering said this to "2029 is the consistent date I have predicted for when an AI will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence. I have set the date 2045 for the ‘Singularity’ which is when we will multiply our effective intelligence a billion fold by merging with the intelligence we have created." Imagine the capabilities to locate new worlds with our intelligence being multiplied by a billion fold.

*Generic definition straight from Wikipedia

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