As NPR reports, planets are being discovered that might support life. These new and exciting celestial spheres are more-or-less suitable for the emergence of life: the temperature, gravity, and elemental make-up of such planets can create selection pressures that range the gamut from mild to pretty-much-inhospitable. One such discovery is especially noteworthy: Kepler 22-B (named after the telescope) is in the ‘goldilocks’ zone. In this zone, the size of the planet and its proximity to its star create the right sort of conditions to support flowing water.
The BBC (picked up by Slate) go on to make the link between the discovery of such planets and astral systems, and SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. With the discovery of more and more of these potentially-hospitable earth-twins, SETI gains a more plausible target to turn its arrays. With the discovery of more and more of such planets, it is more likely (though I am hesitant to use this term here) that we may discover intelligent life. Another variable in the Drake Equation starts its climb up in the cardinal numbers.
But wait! What is intelligent life? The ability to broadcast galactic radio-waves? Drake, at least, keeps that a separate variable, a tier that only a select group of intelligent critters will ever reach. But that really seems to operationalize our search for intelligent life. What if, being impatient, we send a probe (‘Make it so Number One’, etc.) to Kepler 22-B and discover strange, barely congealed bioluminescent areas – would we be right in attributing it with intelligence? Might our current conceptions of it be too broad? – too exclusive?