What does it mean if Earths are everywhere?

It may be that, despite the evidence of Earths all around us, this Solar System is the only one we'll ever have, or our descendants can ever hope to possess.

European scientists, working at a facility in Chile, have announced the discovery of 32 new planets outside the Solar System, including several within the size range of Earth.

Reporters hailed the discovery of "super-Earths" especially the estimate that as many as 40% of all stars may have low-mass planets orbiting around them.

Scientists have now found about 400 "exo-planets" using telescopes, most in the size range of Jupiter.

It's awfully exciting, but what does it mean?

It means, for one thing, that there are many opportunities in our galaxy for life to develop, and perhaps for intelligence as well.

Yet we remain, so far as is scientifically proven, alone. Attempts to reach the voices of the stars, including the famous SETI @ Home experiment starting in the 1990s, have yet to come up with extraordinary proofs for the extraordinary claims of intelligent life elsewhere.

We have yet to find the salt shaker of the alien spaceship, let alone E.T., a close encounter of the third kind, or even Marvin the Martian.

If I might speculate, one reason might be that 286,000 miles per second is more than a good idea.

If it truly is the law, subject only to the slowing of materials or the subjectivity of the observer approaching the same speed, it means we may truly be alone in time and space.

It may be that, despite the evidence of Earths all around us, this Solar System is the only one we'll ever have, or our descendants can ever hope to possess.

If this is true, do yourself a favor. Hug your Earth today.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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