By Y. Ryabov, G. Yankovsky
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Extra info for An Elementary Survey of Celestial Mechanics
As McNeill put it, astronomers coolly presumed the formation and snufﬁ ng out of innumerable stars, casually assumed the existence of other solar systems in all stages of formation and dissolution, asserted without qualm the indeﬁ nite reduplication of the galaxy, and speculated freely on superorderings of galaxies. 58 Despite these ﬁ ndings, the plurality of worlds suffered a temporary setback when the nebular theory for the origin of our solar system was overtaken by another proposal. In the new model, the formation of planets depended on rare close encounters between two stars.
8 We may ﬁ nd only their traces, frozen, scorched, or crushed by climatic and geological change. The question of life on Mars—past or present—remains open. Threequarters of the planetary scientists informally polled in 2005 believed that Mars once had conditions hospitable to life. One-quarter thought that it still does. 9 Finding an independent origin of biology on another world in our solar system would have momentous implications. 10 Discovering a second origin in our own small solar system would imply a fertile universe, one that might produce other minds.
53 This hope remains widespread in our own time. G. Wells made grimmer assumptions in his The War of the Worlds, ﬁ rst published in magazine form in 1897. He foresaw that the life-forms most able to survive might not be the best from an ethical point of view; instead, they might be the most powerful and aggressive. His Martians are ruthless invaders intent on conquering the Earth. They treat humans like inferior animals, destroying any who get in their way. Humankind is saved only when the Earth’s humblest organisms, the bacteria, infect and kill the Martians.