You are supposed to write headlines and write stories that say attention-grabbing things like Man Bites Dog! I supose the headline above should be read in that category, with a twist: Here's something wildly incredible and fanciful and improbable: Did you hear about the astronomer, who said, get this, that the odds of life on nearby planet are 100 Percent? What was he thinking? What do astronomers know about biological life, and, besides, if the odds are 100 percent, then there are no odds--at least if I go to Arlington Race Track and find a horse that has a 100 percent chance of winning, they probably won't be taking bets on him. No odds there.
So: the story at FoxNews is that a planet 20 light years away, circling a red dwarf star, has an interesting temperature profile and daylight to darkness profile:
Between blazing heat on the star-facing side and freezing cold on the dark side, the average surface temperature may range from 24 degrees below zero to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 31 to minus 12 degrees Celsius), the researchers said.
So, 24 below up to 10 degrees above, constant night and constant night, all sounds promising. Then:
Gliese 581g has a mass three to four times Earth's, the researchers estimated. From the mass and size, they said the world is probably a rocky planet with enough gravity to hold onto an atmosphere.
Probably? Oops. And just what kind of atmosphere? Just how many kinds of atmosphere are even able to support life? Called it Planet Surefire when it comes to life.
I am not saying this planet could not support life. I am just wondering what are the chances that any given astronomer would peg a planet with so many unknowns or uncertainties with a probability of having life on it at 100 percent? Of course, if a news story is in play with a possible headline, I'd up those chances considerably, whatever they are.
If you want to read science, don't read the news.