A Long-Forgotten Essay from Winston Churchill Asks, “Are We Alone in
“Are We Alone in the Universe?” Winston Churchill’s Lost Extraterrestrial
Essay Says No
Winston Churchill’s essay on alien life found
Churchill’s scientific papers reveal an even greater politician than we thought
National Churchill Museum
Science Museum: Churchill’s Scientists
In 1939, Winston Churchill penned an eleven-page essay titled, “Are We Alone in the Universe?” In this essay, the British prime minister employed scientific curiosity and logic to investigate the possibility of extraterrestrial life. By considering the conditions necessary to support life, Churchill hypothesized that life on other planets was not unlikely.
In the 1950s, Churchill revised his essay and passed it on to his publisher, Emery Reves; however, the essay was never published. Three decades later, Reves’s spouse donated a collection of papers, which included this essay, to the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri. Museum director, Timothy Riley, came across the long-forgotten paper last
year and passed it along to astrophysicist Mario Livio. In an article published this past week in Nature, Livio suggests that Churchill, who maintained a lifelong interest in science, displayed “the healthy skepticism of a scientist.”
“Are We Alone in the Universe?” also speaks to the global climate in which Churchill was writing. Authored just as Great Britain was entering World War II, Churchill notes: “I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here
that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.” [MMB] scout.wisc.edu
7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say
Discover of 7 Earth-Size Exoplanets a “Giant Leap Forward” for Alien-Life Hunt
Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1
Largest batch of Earth-size, habitable zone planets
Next exoplanet or solar system discovery could be made accidentally by gamers, not Nasa
Visitors can browse the Open Exoplanet Catalogue, a crowdsourced “catalogue of all discovered extra-solar planets.”
Researchers announced the discovery of at least seven Earth-size planets orbiting a dwarf star dubbed TRAPPIST-1. While the discovery of a remote solar system is exciting in its own right, this discovery is especially noteworthy because scientists believe that these planets may foster environments hospitable to alien life. TRAPPIST-1, which resides about 40 light years away from Earth, is an “ultracool” dwarf star that is smaller and about half the temperature of our sun.
The seven planets in orbit around TRAPPIST-1 are in much closer proximity to this
cooler star than the planets in our own solar system. Thanks to this proximity, several of these planets dwell in the so-called “habitable zone,” where temperature conditions allow for the existence of water. However, scientists believe that all seven planets could potentially host
water depending on atmospheric conditions.
The next step? Astronomers plan to use the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA will launch in 2018, to identify what the gasses are in each planet’s atmosphere. As Michael
Gillon, leader of the international team observing TAPPIST-1 explains, the presence of oxygen, methane, ozone, and carbon dioxide “would tell us that there is life with 99 percent confidence.” [MMB] scout.wisc.edu