Visit new worlds by staying at home

Human beings appear to possess an innate desire to go to other places. Through the course of human history, people have embarked on mass movements when it would have been easier for them to stay put. There could be many reasons for this phenomenon. It could be the result of some migratory instinct embedded in our DNA. Or it could be a throwback to our earlier existence as hunter-gatherers. Perhaps roaming around in our primitive condition hardwired us to be constantly looking over the next ridge to see what opportunities can be taken advantage of there. I, however, believe our need for movement is a simple result of our complex brains. Intelligence provides many benefits, but it also means we can get bored very easily. Boredom can make a person think they want to go somewhere else, when in reality they are probably happy where they are.

I have always been an advocate of human exploration, and would love to see people visit other planets some day. This is out of a curiosity to see what is out there, but also because at some point I have convinced myself that Earth is a boring place. I am surely not alone in this. Familiar things can become boring very quickly when we take them for granted and fail to appreciate how interesting they really are.

Despite what people may think sometimes, Earth is certainly not boring. As far as we know, other planets are the boring ones. Mars has its interesting possibilities for life, and Venus has its mysterious blanket of atmosphere, but as far as we can tell those planets are pretty much the same all around, all the time. Earth, on the other hand, presents variety and stark contrast. The truth is, if you live in the temperate zones of Earth you are guaranteed to have a new world come to you at least four times a year. All you have to do is stay in one place.

Here in Colorado a person can go to bed one night on a nice, human-friendly world. If the temperature drops overnight that same person will wake up in a very different place. What once was comfortable has now become an inhospitable ice planet. This happens every winter, yet somehow we are still surprised.

People claim they want to see change in their lives, but our reaction to the changing seasons proves the reverse. People much prefer consistency to change. Take snow, for example. When it snows overnight we have to deal with living on an ice planet the next morning. Most people behave rationally. They take extra safety precautions, and don't let the snow impede their goals for the day too greatly. Many more people, I'm afraid, have irrational responses to the changing conditions. They don't want to see the world change, so they go about their business as usual, insisting there is nothing to take precautions for. If their normal driving speed was 40 mph before the snow, then it will be 40 mph after the snow. They are able to delude themselves into thinking nothing is different while they are careening down the icy road, and putting everyone else in danger.

I have always wanted to see humans travel to other planets, but I'm not sure if we're ready. We can barely deal with snow. How will we react when we finally reach a new world and it starts raining liquid methane?