Steppenwolf planets: life in interstellar space?

Paul Raven @ 10-02-2011

Life needs light, right? Without a parent star, a planet stands little chance of developing the conditions under which comples chemistry can bootstrap itself into biological processes.

So goes the conventional wisdom, at any rate, but here’s a paper by two space boffins from the University of Chicago that posits the possibility of “Steppenwolf planets”, roaming the vast tracts of interstellar space with no star to call their own, but of sufficient mass and composition to harbour subsurface oceans heated by the still-active planetary core.

Technovelgy compares this to an old George RR Martin story with which I’m not familiar, but I seem to remember a more recent precedent in the latest Greg Egan collection, though the title of the story eludes me.And then there’s Peter Watts’ Blindsight… can anyone think of any others?

It occurs to me that, short of technological developments of a science fictional scale, the only real use we’ll ever be able to put these hypothetical Steppenwolf planets to would be… well, the settings for science fiction stories, basically. Oh, the irony!

But hey, lookit – I managed to write the whole post without a single “born to be wild” gag!

Ah, nuts.

Be Sociable, Share!

6 Responses to “Steppenwolf planets: life in interstellar space?”

  1. Orion says:

    Those planets would make a great hiding spot.

  2. Paul Raven says:

    They sure would… but you’d have to get to ’em first, right? 🙂

  3. Athena Andreadis says:

    I bring up the issue of getting there first whenever people discuss putting such items as teleportation booths in far away places to make interstellar travel easier.

  4. Sterling Camden says:

    I would have jumped all over “Magic Carpet Ride” myself.

  5. Helen Woo says:

    I think life require movement. Energy is only one of the consequences from movement. The beat of the heart is movement, the flow of the rivers is movement and that later on become electricity. The rotation of the Earth is what generate all the circustances to life can survive. Beside, there are many fishes, animals and vegetals which do not need light to live or survive. They only need movement, looking for food anywhere. And in the case of those vegetals, they need changes… changes in the soil that they live in.

  6. Blue Tyson says: