Why Life May Be Common Throughout the Galaxy

The super-Earths discovered by NASA's Kepler mission may be better at supporting life than Earth itself, says the Harvard astronomer who coined the term super-Earth. 

What's the Latest Development?


NASA's Kepler mission has discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system which, being larger than Earth but not so large as gas giants, could harbor life. Due to their size, astronomers refer to these planets as super-Earths. Now, the Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, who coined the term super-Earth, says these planets may be better at harboring life than Earth itself: "Their larger size make its easier for them to retain their atmospheres, and they are more likely to have active plate tectonics, supporting a CO2 cycle that regulates the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere."

What's the Big Idea?

Given vastly different chemical compositions, life on other planets may look very different from the life we know on Earth. Sasselov says that the emerging field of synthetic biology will help us understand what different forms of life are possible on other worlds. Not only is Sasselov confident that life exists elsewhere, given the nearly 100 million Earth-sized planets he estimates to be in our galaxy, "he believes our growing knowledge of super-Earths and other exoplanets will help us find 'friendly harbors' beyond Earth that one day will allow us to spread life beyond our world."

Photo credit: shutterstock.com


Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

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  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
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Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
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