Somewhere out there are worlds that can support life. Lisa Kaltenegger has a way to find them
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[Big Data will let us explore distant planets]
The existence of life is a crapshoot. You need a nice, solid hunk of planet you can plant your feet on. You need lots of water and other friendly chemistry, some of it forming a quilt of atmosphere to keep out the cold. And you need to be just the right distance from just the right star–not too close, not too far; not too hot, not too cold. A terrarium like that incubating for, say, a billion years, might have a fair chance of cooking up something living. Those just-right conditions don’t occur often, which explains why it’s been so hard to find life on the tiny handful of worlds we have even a remote chance of visiting: the moons and planets in our solar system.