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Lots of hydrogen could mean billions of life-bearing planets, except …


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?

One "benefit" of having kids is the birthday parties with the $20 walmart helium tanks for baloons (and entertainment). Joseph
What would lots of helium mean? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRCCPYM241E&feature=related Mung
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/811/gliese20581d20habitable.jpg/ On the picture we can see Venus, Earth and Mars all in the presumed habitable zone. We know Mars atmosphere was long ago stripped away and that there is most likely no life there as well. Venus likely formed in a similar way to Mars and Earth, yet out of the three, it is the most inhospitable. Venus suffered runaway greenhouse effects, it's atmosphere can crush any space probe we send. Venus is as similar as Earth in the past, yet now it is a very different and unforgiving place to be for anything living. Looking at this picture we could logically conclude that the habitable zone must be a rule of science, and we are close to the middle of it... the question is: what happened to Mars and Venus? Obvious conclusion is astronomers may find planets within habitable zone but that doesn't mean they will develop into hospitable place for life. Just look at our neighbors. Eugen
Hydrogen blankets? Just don't light up a cigarette. Joseph
"Croswell warns that global warming could destroy nascent life in that case." Do you mean directly or indirectly? Croswell states at the end: "Yet if a far-out planet did spawn life, that life could sign its own death warrant. Some types of microbe consume hydrogen and carbon dioxide. By depleting these greenhouse gases, the microbes might turn their warm world into a giant snowball, killing them all." paragwinn

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