At the end of 2016 the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) called for Killarney National Park’s designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve to be withdrawn. This call was backed up by the leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan. Both IWT and the Green Party cite mismanagement of the park, overgrazing by deer and the threat that invasive species including Rhododendron poses to the national park as being key concerns.
Figures vary, but many scientists estimate that there are in the region of 5 million different species alive on our planet today. Life is everywhere. Evolution has seen to that. Wherever there is a living to be made, some species or other has adapted to fill this niche and thrive. Life can be strange and beautiful, full of wonderful adaptations and ornamentations.
Is there anybody out there?
At the start of the 20th century an Italian by the name of Marconi began experimenting with wireless telegraphy. Soon after, wireless telephony and radio broadcasting were developed. Since those early days, humans have been pumping out radio, television and communications signals from our planet in an ever increasing quantity and strength.
Like a wave that travels outward when a stone is thrown into water, radio and TV signals travel by electromagnetic wave at the speed of light in an ever expanding sphere away from the earth. Theoretically, anyone with a powerful enough receiver on another planet would be able to eavesdrop on us. So how likely is this, and if they are listening, are they coming to visit?
Evolution and the mistake
“Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool: the mistake”.
The above quote is from Dr Robert Ford, one of the main protagonists in a popular, TV show, Westworld. A simple sentence, but one which sums up evolution and one of the forces behind it quite succinctly. In truth, the quotation applies, not only to sentient live, but to all life on our planet, and if life has evolved elsewhere, and enjoys a healthy competition for resources, then it will probably apply there too.
Water on Europa
At the end of September, scientists from NASA, using data from the Hubble Space Telescope announced that they had discovered water vapour plumes on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The plumes extend more than 100 miles into space. The discovery was announced in a hastily arranged press conference amidst excitable rumours that NASA had discovered aliens. No aliens were forthcoming, but the discovery is certainly is good news for planetary scientists looking for extraterrestrial life.