Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Discovery Of Habitable Earth-Like Planet 'To Be Announced In May 2011'"

From Physics arXive via MIT's arXiveblog:

The first Earth-like planet orbiting another star will be announced in May next year, if the discovery of extrasolar planets continues at its present rate, say researchers.
The rate of scientific progress is often hard to measure. But in certain circumstances, the data is unambiguous and easy to measure, creating a trend. And when that happens, the futurologists aren't far behind, extrapolating and predicting the way things will be.

The most famous example is Moore's Law, which predicts that the density of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years or so. This trend has continued for more 40 years and looks set fair for at least another 10.

Today, we're introduced to another data set that makes possible a bold prediction about the future. Samuel Arbesman from Harvard Medical School in Boston and Gregory Laughlin at the University of California, Santa Cruz, point out that astronomers have been discovering extrasolar planets at an increasing rate since 1995.

The discoveries follow a well understood pattern, the first extrasolar planets being necessarily massive, many times the size of Jupiter, and so easier to spot. As techniques have improved, however, astronomers have found smaller planets, some just a few times more massive than Earth....MORE
When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space...
-the Drifters, "Up on the Roof"