You’re Not Going to Gliese 581g (a.k.a Zarmina)

Earth, as seen from Apollo 11. We've only got one, folks. | NASA.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The discovery of the planet Gliese 581g (Zarmina)—a perhaps semi-habitable planet orbiting Gliese, a star 20 light-years away—was met with much rejoicing in the sci-fi nerd community when it was announced in late September. If you watched the mainstream media coverage, you’d think that we’d finally discovered a backup Earth—a planet that’s relatively close that we could maybe colonize at some point in the future. Unfortunately, that’s almost certainly not the case. Even if you got around some non-minor problems—the planet is tidally locked, with one side in permanent light (and heat) and the other in permanent darkness (and cold)—it would take a very long time to get there. Like, many lifetimes long. David McConville, a scientist who works with a space technology company, made a video about just how long it would take, and why the sci-fi myth that we have “backup Earths” and second chances is so pernicious:

Dave Goldberg of the User’s Guide to the Universe is a lot more optimistic about advances in space travel. But his calculations include all sorts of ridiculous assumptions—the example of a sci-fi-style matter-antimatter drive, for example, to power the spacecraft. And even then, the fuel needed to power the trip would require an amount of energy that would take “3 million years to collect on earth if the entire surface were covered with solar panels.” Basically, you’re not going to Gliese 581g. We’ve got to take care of the planet we have. As Crosby, Stills, and Nash wisely said, “Love the One You’re With“:

(h/t io9)


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend