37
Life on Earth

The universe is inconceivably large. It may be made up of as many as one hundred billion galaxies.

Each galaxy contains anywhere from a few million to a few trillion stars. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, has about three hundred billion stars glittering within its core and its spiral arms.

Of all this, our sun is but one star; one star lost in vast crowds.

Surrounding the sun is a family of smaller bodies, billions of them, ranging in size from the largest planet to the smallest asteroid or comet. (Perhaps every star has such a family.)

Our earth is just one of all those objects circling the sun and is not even the most impressive. It is the fifth largest.

It may be that only on our earth, on this one world in an enormous universe, is there to be found the phenomenon of life.

There may be other worlds full of life, to be sure, innumerable examples of them dotting the universe—but we don't know of them. The few nearby worlds we have reached and examined seem lifeless.

Is there any point in studying life? If it is such a small part of the scheme of things, can it have any importance? After all, if all of life on the earth were to vanish suddenly, the planet would continue to spin and circle the sun and would do so unperturbed for billions of years. The sun certainly would continue shining for those billions of years, in no way affected by the disappearance of living things on one of the many objects circling it.

And the rest of the universe? It could not be altered or touched in any way by that disappearance.

Still—we are part of life, so we may be excused if we find selfish cause to be interested in it and to find it a wonderful phenomenon.

-183-

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The Roving Mind
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Roving Mind *
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword Isaac Asimov: Science Popularizer, Skeptic, and Rationalist xi
  • A Celebration of Isaac Asimov — a Man for the Universe xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I the Religious Radicals *
  • 1: The Army of the Night *
  • 3: The Reagan Doctrine 20
  • 4: The Blind Who Would Lead 24
  • 5: Creeping Censorship 27
  • 6: Losing the Debate 29
  • Part II Other Aberrations 30
  • 7: The Harvest of Intelligence *
  • 8: That Old-Time Violence 37
  • 9: Little Green Men or Not? 40
  • 10: Don'T You Believe? 43
  • 11: Open Mind? 47
  • 12: The Role of the Heretic 49
  • Part III Population *
  • 13: The Good Earth is Dying *
  • 14: The Price of Survival 66
  • 15: Letter to a Newborn Child 72
  • Part IV Science: Opinion 74
  • 16: Technophobia *
  • 17: What Have You Done for Us Lately? 84
  • 18: Speculation 88
  • 19: Is It Wise for Us to Contact Advanced Civilizations? 92
  • 20: Pure and Impure 97
  • 21: Do We Regulate Science? 104
  • 22: For Public Understanding of Science 107
  • 23: Science Corps 110
  • 24: Science and Beauty 113
  • 25: Art and Science 116
  • 26: The Fascination of Science 120
  • 27: Sherlock Holmes as Chemist 127
  • Part V Science: Explanation 132
  • 28: The Global Jigsaw *
  • 29: The Inconstant Sun 139
  • 30: The Sky of the Satellites 151
  • 31: The Surprises of Pluto 157
  • 32: Neutron Stars 160
  • 33: Black Holes 162
  • 34: Faster Than Light 165
  • 35: Hyperspace 169
  • 36: Beyond the Universe 175
  • 37: Life on Earth 183
  • Part VI the Future 188
  • 38: Transportation and the Future *
  • 39: The Corporation of the Future 200
  • 40: The Future of Collecting 208
  • 41: The Computerized World 214
  • 42: The Individualism to Come 228
  • 43: The Coming Age of Age 237
  • 44: The Decade of Decision 244
  • 45: Do You Want to Be Cloned? 251
  • 46: The Hotel of the Future 256
  • 47: The Future of Plants 262
  • 48: Bacterial Engineering 266
  • 49: Flying in Time to Come 272
  • 50: The Ultimate in Communication 278
  • 51: His Own Particular Drummer 285
  • 52: The Future of Exploration 295
  • 53: Homo Obsoletus? 300
  • 54: Volatiles for the Life on Luna 307
  • 55: Touring the Moon 312
  • 56: Life on a Space Settlement 317
  • 57: The Payoff in Space 324
  • Part VII Personal *
  • 58: I Am a Signpost *
  • 59: The Word-Processor and I 334
  • 60: A Question of Speed 337
  • 61: A Question of Spelling 340
  • 62: My Father 344
  • Acknowledgments 348
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