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8/12/2016ID the Future, Seattle, WA
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As one spurred on in my science interests in high school by Sagan's Cosmic Connection, I found this episode, as speculative as it was, particularly intriguing. I even did my senior English class research paper on SETI. (We had a separate course whose entire purpose was researching and writing a research paper--there I covered early church history--now I know that that was way too broad of a topic--anyway, science and faith interests from an early age!)
I'm partial to the thermal vent origin of life linked with catalytic metabolic cycles which Tyson did cover for all of 15 seconds. See Nick Lane's Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution--the first chapter on the origin of life for a nice overview. Of course, there's Stuart Kauffman. I give my take on this in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation--Loren Haarsma's and my chapter on self-organization and complexity.
The possibility of rocks (with embedded bacteria) being transferred from planet to planet seems plausible. But what particularly intrigued me was the claim that life was successively wiped out several times on earth and then reseeded by recaptured ejecta containing bacteria. Could some paleogeologist who is up on all this comment? Is it really the case that there have been planet-wide sterilizations that would destroy all of life since the accepted dates of life's first appearing? Is there a fossil record for this? Or would such planet-wide sterilizations have "melted" evidence of prior history?
While Tyson denied the possibility of interstellar transfer because of the vast distances involved, he did propose the idea of ejected material from life-bearing planets seeding debris in star/planet forming regions of the galaxy as earth (or other life bearing planets) passed through those regions during galactic rotations. (So those regions don't rotate with the galaxy?--I'm not quite sure how this helps. But I'm quite the amateur galactic astronomer.)
Also intriguing was his suggestion that our electromagnetic radiation based communication system may be a short-lived blip in the history of technology and that that explains SETI's to-date negative results. One would think that an advanced civilization that no longer uses such a system would still be on the look-out for such a technology knowing its temporary usefulness. Remember how the Vulcans became interested in earth when they detected that warp signature generated by Zefram Cochran.
If I didn't know better I'd think that humans had landed on Mars and could walk around without space suits. I found it curious that there was no effort (as far as I remember) to suggest that Tyson wasn't actually on Mars in those scenes. I pity the 25% of Americans who don't know that the sun doesn't rotate around the earth who might have been watching.
Finally, the mega-volcano eruption in Indonesia that left earth soot and cloud covered for 5 years 75,000 years ago made me wonder about the wisdom of moving entirely to solar/wind energy. When the Yellowstone mega-volcano erupts, we'll be in big trouble if we've dismantled all the coal-fired and nuclear power plants. Perhaps we should just take them off-line and not actually tear them down. Of course, by the time of the next eruption perhaps we'll know how to harness all that geothermal energy and we can power the planet from that location.