Habitable Worlds

ORION meets on the third Wednesday of every month.  Our meeting will be held at Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge, TN in the Goff Building, room 104 (just off of the lobby).  We gather at 7:00 with the program beginning at approximately 7:15 p.m.  You do not have to be a scientist to attend, or even a member of ORION.  The program is free and open to the public.   

Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday November 15, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.   Kenneth Roy will be our speaker.


Much effort has been expended on the search for habitable worlds. The unstated goal is to find a second Earth, another home for Humanity. But the problem with habitable worlds is that they are inhabited. Oxygen in the atmosphere will probably not exist without life of some sort releasing it as a waste product. Aside from the ethical issues, Earth life may not be compatible with alien life and attempts to colonize such worlds may not end well for Humans. All of life on Earth utilizes 21 very specific amino acids to build the proteins that form us. These amino acids are synthesized within the cells of living plants, animals, and fungi. Thus, the universe of amino acids that we are exposed to is limited to these specific amino acids. Earth DNA systems are tailored to direct the construction of useful proteins from these amino acids. There are some 300 naturally occurring and an estimated 3000 plus possible amino acids that could exist. Life that has evolved independently on a distant planet is likely to utilize some but not all of amino acids used by Earth life and will probably use amino acids not used by Earth life. Ingesting (and perhaps even slight contact with) these alien amino acids could disrupt the proper functioning of Earth based cells. The Panspermia Theory suggests that this might not be the case, with similar extremophiles being distributed throughout the universe. Or perhaps Earth cells have the ability to discard alien amino acids. These are open questions. It may be that when Humanity ventures to other solar systems, the search will not be for living alien worlds to colonize, but instead for suitable sterile worlds that can be transformed over time into a true second Earth inhabited with life from Earth.


Kenneth  Roy  is a retired (but still working)  engineer living and working amidst the relics of the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  He invented the “Shell Worlds” concept.  In 1997, he made the cover of the prestigious Proceeding of the U.S. Naval Institute for his forecast of anti-ship, space based, kinetic energy weapons.  With his co-authors R.G. Kennedy and D.E. Fields, has appeared multiple times in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS) and Acta Astronautica with papers on terraforming and space colonization.  He is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  He enjoys reading science fiction and books on terraforming.