Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, December 5, 2015

MVNews this week:  Page 13



Mountain Views-News Saturday, December 5, 2015


Perhaps with a Little Help from Planetary Neighbors

Life on other planets? A recent study by University 
of Nevada Las Vegas astrophysicist Jason Steffen is 
shedding new light on this persistently challenging 

 In our galaxy, there may be billions of planetary 
systems where more than one planet is habitable. 
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has found planet pairs 
on very similar orbits—with orbital distances 
differing by as little as 10 percent. If such a planet 
pairing occurred in the right place, then both 
planets could sustain life—and even help each 
other along.

 Steffen and research partner Gongjie Li from 
the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 
studied some of the ramifications for life in these 
multihabitable systems.

 “It’s pretty intriguing to imagine a system where 
you have two Earth-like planets orbiting right 
next to each other,” said Steffen. “If some of these 
systems we’ve seen with Kepler were scaled up to 
the size of the Earth’s orbit, then the two planets 
would only be one-tenth of one astronomical unit 
apart at their closest approach. That’s only 40 
times the distance to the Moon.”

 With planets so close together, a number of 
interesting processes become important. For 
one, the seasons on the Earth, and the Earth’s 
climate in general, depend upon its “obliquity,” 
or the 23.5-degree tilt of the Earth’s axis relative 
to its orbit. A change of only a few degrees could 
cause a permanent ice age. If two planets on 
neighboring orbits caused large changes in each 
other’s obliquities, then their climates would not 
be stable.

 “We found that the obliquities of the planets in 
multihabitable systems were not really affected by 
their close orbits,” said Li. “Only in rare instances 
would their climates be altered in dramatic ways. 
Otherwise, their behavior was similar to the 
planets in the solar system.”

 Another process that the scientists investigated 
was lithopanspermia—the means by which life-
bearing material on one planet can be ejected 
by meteor impacts and delivered to the surface 
of another planet. For example, on the Earth 
more than 100 meteorites of Martian origin have 
been found. Steffen and Li identified a number of 
facts that would facilitate the proliferation of life 
between two planets in a multihabitable system.

 First, the energy of the impact needed to 
get material from one planet to another in a 
multihabitable system is much less than it is in the 
solar system, so microorganisms are more likely 
to survive the impact itself. Second, the time 
needed to traverse the interplanetary distance is 
much smaller. And third, the way that the impact 
debris travel through space (flowing in streams) 
implies that it is more likely that material from a 
single impact could hit the destination planet at 
multiple locations in relatively rapid succession. 
This scenario would increase the chances of life 
gaining a foothold.

 “Multihabitable systems could have a 
microbial family tree with roots and branches 
simultaneously on two different planets,” Steffen 
noted. “Systems like those that we investigated, 
and moon systems orbiting a habitable-zone 
giant planet, are among the few scenarios where 
life—intelligent life in particular—could exist 
in two places at the same time and in the same 

 Despite the challenges that life may have in 
developing on a planet, it appears that the presence 
of a nearby companion in the struggle may help. 
“At least the climate isn’t likely to be any worse in 
multihabitable systems, and the possibility of two 
planets sharing the biological burden could help 
the system traverse the inevitable rough times,” 
Steffen said.


 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@


It’s the Most Wonderful 
Time of the Year! 
You are cordially invited to join us in 
celebrating the 
joyous Holiday Season at our 
Holiday Open House! 
Admire the beauty of the colorful 
decorations as you sample traditional 
holiday hors d’oeuvres and beverages. 
Catch the holiday spirit as you listen 
to the sounds of the season with 
special entertainment. 
Stay a while and get to know the residents, 
families and staff — see why they call our 
Community “home.” 
Saturday, December 5, 2015 
11:00 a.m.—2:00p.m. 
8417 Mission Drive 
Rosemead, CA 91770 
(626) 287-0438 
Lic 198601803, 198601804 


Nyerges is the author of 
“How to Survive Anywhere” 
and other books. He has led 
wilderness and wild food 
classes since 1974. He can be 
reached at www.SchoolofSelf-, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041] 

 It’s always best to plan ahead. Carry essential gear, 
since you never know when you’ll need it: knife, fire-
starter, water, cordage – that sort of thing. Obviously, you 
also need some sort of pack. 

 Still, sometimes it happens – you just don’t have what 
you need when you need it. Then you have to get creative, 
and find some makeshift solutions. 

 In the case of a day pack, did you know that you can 
take a pair of pants, or a sweatshirt, or even a button-up 
shirt and turn it into a day pack? 

 It’s really simple, and all you’ll need is some rope or 

 Let’s use a pair of pants as our example. (Hopefully, 
you have an extra pair of pants to try this with.) 
With a bit of twine, tie off the end of each pant leg. You should tie it tight. 

 Pull up the zipper and button the top. 

 Now fill the pants with whatever you need to carry. Fill 
the legs with soft material first, since the legs will become 
your pack straps. Next, fill up the upper part of the pants 
with whatever it is you need to carry. Try to balance the 
weight, and don’t have any sharp object jutting into the 
back, just like you do with a normal backpack or day 

 Next, put a length of twine through the belt loops and 
cinch it up, and tie it well. Then bring each pant leg up to 
the waist, and secure the bottom of each pant leg to the 
waist. That’s it! 

 Go ahead and see how it fits. If the pack straps are too 
tight, you need to let out a bit of the cord on the pant legs 
and re-tie the pant legs to the waist. 

 From this explanation, you can see how easy it would 
be a turn a sweat shirt into a pack. With the sweatshirt, 
it’s all the same except you begin by taking a bit of cord 
and tying off the neck. You need to do this very securely, 
otherwise you will lose things on the trail. 

 There was one time when I actually needed a pack, and 
the only extra clothing item was my long sleeved shirt. I 
took off my shirt and buttoned up the front. I stripped 
some fibre from some yucca leaves, and tied off the neck. 
Next, I tied off each cuff. 

 Since I was using this “pack” to collect acorns and pine 
cones, I first filled the arms with acorns, which I put into 
a few paper bags to keep them contained. Then I filled the 
remainder of the shirt with pine cones. I tied off the cuffs, 
and tied the cuffs to the waist of the shirt, securing it all 
together. It fit well, but was a bit uncomfortable because 
of the pine cones. Still, I got home OK and didn’t lose any 
acorns or pine cones. 

 Since it was already dark by the time I’d hiked home, 
I was a bit cold wearing only my t-shirt, but not too 

 An emergency pack like this can be a saviour in a 
time of need. When I didn’t have a pack at home, I have 
actually taken an old pair of pants and used them for my 
“pack” for a day trip. Plus, who says you have to spend 
nearly $100 to have a simple day pack? 

 Although I have seen many variations of this idea 
over the years, the first time I ever saw it was in one of 
Ellsworth Jaeger’s books, probably “Wildwood Wisdom.”

The pants are filled with items and the waist is tied 
off. The pants are worn like a pack.

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: