Tuesday, 4 March 2014

LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, Short Answer Questions

J.A.V. Butler

1.     What new theory concerning the origin of the planets is presented by Professor Butler?
Butler believes that the stars are separated by huge distances and the chance of a close approach of two stars is rather small. When such an encounter takes place, gigantic tides in the liquid or gaseous surfaces of the stars are set up, which may result in large masses of material being pulled away from them and, condensing, giving rise to planets. In other words, the explosion threw off some pieces of some matter that formed the earth and other planets.

2.     What, in brief, are his views on the probability of life existing in worlds other than our own?
According to Butler, it is possible that there will be planets in which the essential requirements of life are present. We can easily trace out the uniformity in the universe.  The stars contain many of the elements we have on the earth. There is nothing to point out that our world is unique. There is no reason why we should not think that life may exist in great amount in other worlds. We must not expect that evolution has followed similar paths everywhere. There may be a world in which life has not yet produced thinking and reasoning creatures; there may be others in which organized rational societies have existed formally millions of years.

3.     What had to be understood for chemistry to become a science?
Chemistry emerged as a science when it was understood that all substances are combinations of the same primary elements. Wood turns out to be a combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and when it is burnt the carbon is turned to carbon dioxide and the hydrogen to water, and one can make an accurate balance sheet accounting for everything originally present in the wood. The formulae are based on the facts of chemical combination and they have stood the test of time.

4.     Who was responsible for the atomic theory of chemistry?
The first stage of scientific chemis­try, which was begun by Lavoisier with the correct account of combustion, was guided by the atomic theory of Dalton, which served to explain the facts of chemical combination in simple compounds. It was concerned with the elementary composition of substances.

5.     What was the original distinction between 'organic' and 'inorganic' substances? Does this distinction still hold good in modern science?
In earlier times, when every substance was believed to have its own qualities, there was no difficulty in believing that some substances were endowed with life, others not. Wood was wood, and water was water. Alcohol, oils, fats, sugars, waxes, resins, rubber, cellulose, starch, were originally called organic compounds and thought to be different from the inorganic. Although they were compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, etc., chemists thought they were a different class of compounds from those which they had managed to prepare. But the distinction broke down when Wohler, prepared urea, which had previously been regarded as a typical product of life.

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