No justice on this Earth, try another

Brian Jones
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The nerds at NASA enjoy messing with the minds of ordinary earthlings.

This week, they announced the discovery of 715 more planets, bringing their total of known exoplanets — those outside the solar system — to approximately 1,700.

The stargazing scientists said the 715 new planets were found by examining 305 stars.

Of the 715, four are in the Goldilocks zone, just the right distance from their star to be not too hot and not too cold, thus allowing for the possibility of water and life.

Nine of the 1,700 exoplanets are in the Goldilocks zone, NASA officials said.

Neither NASA nor The Associated Press report referred to the galactic implications of these numbers, so that task falls to The Telegram and your humble scribe.

Finding 715 planets orbiting 305 stars is roughly a 2:1 ratio (let’s round it off). There are about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. Assuming two planets for each star gives a total of 200 billion possible planets.

At a ratio of nine Goldilocks-zone planets per 1,700, those 200 billion planets could contain more than one billion habitable planets. Or, to be precise: 1,058,823,529.

Unknown variable x would be the number of uninhabitable gas planets; unknown variable y would be the number of habitable rocky planets.

The possibilities make your head spin like a pulsar.

Thanks, NASA.

In 25 words or less, describe how all this helps prove — or disprove — the existence of God.

Out-of-this-world wealth

Statisticians, like astronomers, have a habit of pummelling the public with neuron-numbing numbers.

Not to be outdone by NASA, the calculator-crunching staffers at Statistics Canada also released a study this week showing, among other things, that the net worth of Canadian families has risen 44.5 per cent since 2005.

“Funny, I don’t feel 44.5 per cent richer,” you might say.

That might be because StatsCan also calculated that Canadian families’ total debt has risen to $1.34 trillion from $864.6 billion in 2005.

Proving just how twisty and shifty statistics can be, the study notes that the major source of rising net worth is increased real estate prices.

If you don’t plan to sell your house and live under a bridge, your rise in riches is likely all on paper.

Shattering myths

Economics has earned its title as the dismal science. It can be cruel. It has no use for the Goldilocks premise — not too rich and not too poor. Instead, the gaps in wealth between the classes can be of galactic proportions.

StatsCan revealed the richest 20 per cent of Canadian families own 67 per cent of the country’s total net worth.

According to The Canadian Press (CP) report, “Meanwhile, the top 40 per cent of families possessed 88.9 per cent of total net worth, leaving the bottom 60 per cent with a mere 11.1 per cent of the pie.”

The poorest 20 per cent of families had negative net worth — “as a group they had more debts than assets,” according to CP.

So, one out of five families in Canada have less than nothing.

The implications of these numbers are astounding. They do not prove, as the federal Tories claimed, that the government is doing a stellar job.

On the contrary, they shatter one of the essential national myths Canadians boast about and supposedly value: that ours is a nation of equality, fairness and equality of opportunity.

Looking ahead

Political debate often turns to talk of “future generations,” so let’s look at it from that aspect.

The children in one out of every five families in Canada have parents who own nothing.

This is no way to run a country.

Note to NASA: please direct your gaze northward and try to find intelligent life in Ottawa.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: NASA, The Telegram, The Associated Press Statistics Canada Canadian Press

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa.Brian Jones

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