In New Scientist, Ken Croswell tells us that “Alien life may huddle under hydrogen blankets” (12 May 2011):
OUR planet seems to be in just the right spot to sport a mild climate. Not too near the sun’s heat, not too far from its warmth, in a narrow habitable zone in which water is liquid and life can thrive. But Earth could still support life even if it were as far from the sun as Saturn, claim two scientists in the US, as long as the air abounded with hydrogen. If they are right, then billions of life-bearing planets may exist much further from their host stars than astronomers had thought possible.
Not everyone agrees, of course:
“It’s a clever idea,” says James Kasting of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, “but I’m sceptical as to whether you can form these planets.” He doubts that an Earth-like planet or super-Earth would pull in so much hydrogen from the cloud of gas surrounding a young star.
Croswell warns that global warming could destroy nascent life in that case.
Where two popular truisms conflict – there must be life out there vs. global warming – who’s to say where the science folklore will jump?