Wednesday, 15 December 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different….

This week I’ve been spending my spare time catching up on reading the pile of Guardian Weeklys which awaited my return from Rajasthan. Amongst the articles was one entitled New Earth-like planet discovered. It was a popular science article about the recent discovery of Gliese 581, 20 light years away, and seemingly the planet most similar to our own that has thus far been found. The writer used a phrase I had never come across before, “the Goldilocks zone” to refer to the area of space in which life, as we know it, could thrive: that place neither too close, nor too far, from a star to rule out liquid water on a planet’s surface. Don’t you just love it?  Clearly, it is from that beloved of English children’s stories Goldilocks and the Three Bears in which the girl chooses from sets of three beds, bowls of porridge etc , ignoring the ones that are too extreme (large or small, hot or cold, etc.), and settling on the one in the middle, which is "just right". Thoughts begun filling my head of exactly what constitutes life other than as we know it , and who/what might be eating my breakfast, or me for breakfast, on Gliese 581 :)
Then a few newspaper pages further on my eye catches a book review entitled Global gamble on the urban future along side a photo of men performing daily ablutions roadside in what is clearly an Indian slum. It is a review of Doug Saunders’ book Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World.
The juxtaposition leaves me considering what constitutes the Goldilocks zone here on Earth, today. Where does life,as we know it, exist, flourish, thrive? Where does it struggle and fail? Is there one Goldilocks zone or many? Is life inside the Goldilocks zone equitable, of uniform quality?  What happens to a Goldilocks who does like porridge? Does the Goldilocks principle make us conform to what others tell us is the norm? Shouldn’t we be encouraging more exploration and understanding of the extremes?
I leave the questions for you all to ponder over when having your night time cocoa or morning porridge :)

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