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the watch the watch January 2017

Sexual Assault Triggers Also in this issue: Student Concussions Professor Salaries

From the Editors As the New Year rolls around we’ve been thinking a lot about our duties and responsibilities as the editors of this magazine. Our duty is to showcase all sides of the conflicts and stories that exist in this community. Sometimes this means dealing with material that is considered controversial or “wrong” in the eyes of some of our readers. In the face of such controversy, we remain certain that failing to report the full spectrum of viewpoints in our pieces would be unethical. When faced with an ethical decision (as we have been many times this past year), we often reach out to professors in the Journalism School and to our publisher John Sandham for guidance. While no decision made by an editor is ever easy, we have found ourselves, time and again, straddling the world of student/citizen and that of editor/journalist. In each of these conflicts we find ourselves returning to the simple fact that it is our duty as journalists and editors to report both sides of every story – no matter our personal opinions about the issue itself. We must let go of our citizen-selves and think as journalists, if only for a moment. Over the last few months we’ve received a large amount of feedback and commentary on some of the controversial content we’ve published. We want you to know that we are listening. We welcome constructive feedback and are willing to participate in any conversation about our content, whether it

be via an in-person meeting, or email/messenger. However, the influx of tweets and Facebook statuses criticising our writers and our editorial team have only served to once again confuse our citizen and journalist worlds. They have seeped into our everyday routines as students, where we are here to learn with our fellow classmates. While we can never fully distinguish the two worlds from one another, we fear that our editorial decisions have, and will continue to, place targets on our personal selves. We want to remind both our readers and our writers that while it is our responsibility to choose to publish, to not publish, or to edit all submissions, you are not seeing our personal feelings and opinions within these pages. We do not make decisions purely because we disagree or hold a specific bias, nor have we ever since taking our positions in September. In our last board of publisher’s meeting, it was decided we hold a panel to discuss the concerns that have been brought forward about our November 2016 cover photo. We hope that this will be a good way to both answer your questions about the photo (and the article that goes along with it), and give some insight into our decision-making process for the future. Happy New Year! Kristen & Avi. |w

2 The Watch | January 2017| @kingswatch

the watch VOL. 34 NO. 04 - JANUARY 2017 TWITTER @kingswatch INSTAGRAM @watchmagz

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Avi Jacob Kristen Thompson


COPY EDITOR Allison Hill CONTRIBUTORS Nicholas Frew Maddie Johnson Ross Andersen Coel Ediger



John Sandham


Maddie Johnson

PUBLISHING BOARD Fadila Chater Piper MacDougall Lianne Xiao John Sandham Zoë Brimacombe Charlotte Sullvan


Avi Jacob

Daniel Wesser Kristen Thompson

We welcome your feedback on each issue. Letters to the editors should be signed. We reserve the right to edit all submissions. The Watch is owned and operated by the students of the University of King’s College.

But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people not be warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at watchman’s hand. — Ezekiel 33:6

the watch IN THIS ISSUE

student concussions part II page 6-7 sick notes page 9 seasonal depression pages 10 women’s march page 12-13 the periodical page 14-15

The Watch |January 2017| @kingswatch 3

From the Publisher:

“King’s, I love you, but you’re bringing me down” An old friend of mine has a saying that has stuck with me even now, years after first hearing it. “You can’t negate how someone feels.” It’s true. Who am I, or we as a publication, to tell someone their feelings are wrong?

of us will remember details of The Epic of Gilgamesh, but we will remember how we dealt with and overcame problems that arose during our years spent at King’s – things such as breakups, disagreements, or looming deadlines.

So, to those who feel they’ve been personally offended by articles The Watch has recently chosen to publish, we apologize. Know it is never our intention to cause anyone pain or harm.

One of our contributors, Jennifer Hall, put into words so eloquently what I’ve been trying to say for years when she wrote that King’s has a “bubble-like nature” to it. King’s is a bubble. It’s almost like summer camp – a part of, yet separate from, the rest of the world.

Good. Let’s move on. We’ve chosen to run photos and articles over the past few months that have been viewed as controversial, and subsequently created a buzz about the King’s community. Unfortunately, the majority of it isn’t the kind of buzz we hope to create when we choose to publish sensitive content. Most of the responses to these articles and photos have been critical of The Watch and our editorial decisions instead of the balanced, factual, and thought-provoking commentary we hoped this type of content would promote. One tweet (deleted shortly after it was originally posted) even accused us of promoting Nazism by choosing to publish an op-ed chronicling one American student’s struggle leading up to Election Day and his eventual choice to cast his vote for Donald Trump. Yikes. I used to hate hearing journalism professors threaten us with sayings like, “If this was a real newsroom,” because classrooms are not. We are students, who have other commitments besides class. But I’m slowly starting to come around to their way of thinking. The purpose of attending university is to prepare you to tackle real life challenges. We should be viewing and approaching this experience as if it is real life. Looking back, years from now, it is extremely unlikely that many The Watch | January 2017| @kingswatch 4

In the real world, hearing opinions or beliefs that don’t line up with your own will be commonplace, and something to be thankful for. It’s a reminder of how lucky we are to live in a country where free speech and the right to debate issues we face as students and citizens of the world are considered essential freedoms. These same freedoms should also hold true at an institution of higher learning such as King’s. I wish I could say I believe that’s true. Instead, over the past few months, my team and I have faced a blur of tweets, subtweets, personal messages, and comments made in passing while wandering the halls of the school in response to content we’ve published. Years ago, when I started working at The Watch, we were heavily criticized for publishing only “fluff” pieces – that is, “fun” articles that don’t make a deep, lasting impact on the population by shining a light on important issues. Now that we’ve largely put an end to this practice, we are being criticized yet again, albeit for different reasons. We can’t win. It’s incredibly demoralizing and has caused me to become disillusioned with many members of the King’s community – one that claims to be open and accepting of all views, but cannot in

large measure seem to put this claim into prac- I’m immensely proud of the product we’ve put totice. gether this year. And although I’ve become disillusioned with the King’s community at times, I’ve Here’s my challenge to the King’s community: if never become disillusioned with my team or with your views are different than the ones expressed the profession I’ve chosen to commit my life to. in something we’ve published, keep an open mind. Read the article in its entirety, weigh its Dealing with the backlash we’ve faced these past logic against your own, and then respond in an few weeks hasn’t been fun, and it’s certainly not intelligent, thoughtful manner. Perhaps even get what I imagined I’d be doing with the majority of involved with the magazine yourself by submitting my time as publisher, but it’s been the best rea response or piece of your own. Start a society al-life experience I could have ever hoped I’d get that addresses the issues we’re trying to bring to out of my university education. It’s knowledge light. Come see us during our office hours if you that I hope I get the chance to employ in whatever want to talk about what we’re publishing and the I choose to do with my life once I leave this place. issues these pieces raise. They’re available on our door and in the magazine. We can’t, and don’t It is time for us to come together as a community want to, address your concerns in 140 characters to confront these issues as one group, rather than or less. remaining divided or having to choose sides in what has at times seemed like a full-scale, coorAs Nicolas Brown, president and chair of Canadi- dinated attack on our publication and journalistic an University Press puts it, “Effective journalism integrity. It’s the only way we can move forward, does not limit itself to publishing only one view- and it’s also what will allow us to return to devotpoint, nor should it shrink from encouraging de- ing all our time to fulfilling our mandate: producing bate or discussion.” quality, thought-provoking and meaningful pieces of journalism that express the views and concerns I couldn’t agree more. of all members of our community.

The Watch | January 2017| @kingswatch 5

Concussed Campus Part II: “You need to rest the brain” Nicholas Frew In recent years, concussion awareness and research has drastically increased, making the reality of the significance of brain injuries and concussions a topic of casual conversation. A concussion - also known as a mild traumatic brain injury - is the result of your brain shaking inside your skull due to some sort of physical impact to your head or body. Whether it’s getting a blow to the head in a rugby scrum or whiplash from a car accident, you’re at risk of getting a concussion. They can vary between mild to extreme, but unlike common colds - where people generally show the same symptoms - everybody reacts differently to concussions. Because of this, Karen Decker, a physiotherapist and director of varsity student trainers at the University of King’s College, introduced a concussion policy in September 2016 for King’s varsity athletics. “Everyone needs a concussion policy, so everyone is on the same board and everyone understands what our protocol is going to be,” Decker said. She added that the making of the policy, though still in the drafting stages, has been rushed since she was given the responsibility by Neil Hooper, the King’s athletic director, and Trish Miles, the athletic coordinator. According to the policy, King’s and partner ACCEL Physiotherapy and Sports Performance Centre are collaborating with Complete Concussion Management (CCM) to provide education, assessment and rehabilitation of suspected concussions in UKC varsity athletes. However, possibly the most significant part of this policy is the “Return-to-Play” process. The policy states that if there is a suggested concussion, the athlete will be guided through a ten-stage protocol, developed by CCM. This involves absolute rest, then return to school, then graduated return to practice and play. There are two major improvements with this policy. First, the ten-stage protoThe Watch | January 2017| @kingswatch 6

col used to only have seven stages. “Over the years, when I used to do sport physio[therapy] and they said, ‘you have to return-to-learn first,’ I said, ‘this guy’s got to get onto the field. What are you talking about?’,” Decker said. “But [getting the student-athlete back to class] is very important.” “If you look at our protocol, the first four steps are, basically, return-to-learn. It used to be a seven-step protocol until we realized returnto-learn is most important and the best way to start,” she added. “We do the cognitive part before we throw you back into the physical part.” The second improvement to the policy is that a student athlete can’t begin practicing or playing after a concussion until they are cleared by a trained professional. “The usual protocol is evaluated by a physician,” Decker said. “The unfortunate thing is not every physician is trained in the latest protocols… So Neil [Hooper] and Trish [Miles] agreed for me to say ‘a trained professional,’ whether it’s me or somebody at our clinic. Decker feels that this will ensure that students will be seeing a physician who has training and background in concussion injury. This clearance is key for those injured, because it stops athletes, people who consistently will themselves to fight through pain for their sport, from further damage to their health. “The concern with concussions is if you go back and you’re symptomatic, you can get a second concussion and it can be fatal,” Decker said. At a King’s varsity athletics event last semester, Decker spoke about the concussion policy and used the example of Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old high school rugby player from Ontario. She died of a brain injury due to a concussion during a rugby match. All that said, it’s ironic that an institution such as a university - a place of learning, where people literally need their brains to function proper-

ly - doesn’t always accommodate concussions. At King’s and Dalhousie, accommodations are made by individual professors, and while they’re usually accommodating, there are times they’re not. Bridget Irwin - a fourth-year student, who was interviewed in the first part of this series - was concussed during a rugby match in September 2015 and still had symptoms going into exam season, so she asked for a prorate - the ability to waive the final exam - and was denied by one of her professors, Daniel Stevens. “His logic seemed a little odd to me,” Irwin said in a message. “He told me that, because I had achieved high marks thus far in the course, there was no reason he thought I wouldn’t be able to do just as well on the final exam.” “When [Jennifer Hall] interviewed me, I explained to her that this is why I thought he may have misunderstood what concussions are and how they affect people…When I had a concussion, no matter how high my marks were on previous assignments and exams and no matter how hard I studied, I was not able to focus as well or for as long as I normally can,” she continued. Irwin added that writing a final exam was “mentally exhausting” and she believes that toll may have contributed to her prolonged concussion symptoms.

However, he did say that he granted Irwin hand-in extensions. He also added that, last semester, he taught a Dalhousie hockey player who had a concus sion and was extremely accommodating to them. “We can confidently say [after testing] ‘we feel someone has a concussion,’” Decker said. “Now, we’ve been overruled before… but once you do the tests, and you can highly suspect a concussion, then we’re pretty confident, again, that this is what the protocol has to be. You need to rest the brain.” Decker added that they give templates, provided by CCM, to professors and schools to help them understand that the brain needs to heal - which could mean still going to class, but needing more time on tests, for example. “[The steps,

cognitive not four

rehab] days,”

is Decker

four said.

She used an example of a women’s rugby player who was recently at the ACCEL clinic, still getting cognitive treatment for a concussion she received in the fall. “She still can’t go to school fully yet, and so she’s not doing any exercise yet,” Decker said. “That fourth step has taken about three months to get there.”

When asked about the specifics of the decision to deny the prorate, Stevens couldn’t remember. The Watch | January 2017| @kingswatch 7


Permission Granted Ross Andersen

For many students at King’s and Dalhousie, missing a class of the term, and students will have had more opportunities means more than just asking around for notes. to use it,” said Sampangi. It’s not uncommon for undergraduate professors to base be- The sick note problem tween 10 and 20 per cent of a student’s grade on their attendance and in-class participation. In these classes, students Since the self-declaration project is still limited to a single are required to provide sick notes directly from a doctor or department within the school, students in other departments nurse in order to avoid the penalty to their final grades. still face challenges when it comes to dealing with their health and their studies. In recent years, students and faculty alike have brought forward an issue with this system – it doesn’t account for the For those who suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety, mental health of the students. stress, and depression, it can be difficult justifying an absences and obtaining a doctor’s note can be a daunting task. In response to this issue, the Faculty of Computer Science at Dal has launched a pilot project. Professors in the depart- “Anxiety isn’t a one time thing – it is a crippling phenomement now allow students to self-declare absences through non,” said third-year biology major, Georgia Poletes. an online form.

Poletes experienced her share of hardships during the FounAlthough it does not apply to midterms, final assignments dation Year Programme after requesting time off due to an or exams, the self-declared sick note eliminates the student overwhelming amount of stress. from having to justify absences to their professors – so long as their illness is legitimate. She explained that students who suffered from pneumonia were immediately granted extensions, though she was de“This document enables students to take responsibility for nied. Poletes was told that stress is a commonality students reporting their own absence due to short-term illness or dis- experience in university, and she should have committed tress, thus alleviating problems that are associated with cur- herself more to the program. rent practices around sick notes,” the form reads. “The feeling of denial stops you from reaching out ever The document excuses students from class without experi- again, and creates a barrier between you and the world,” encing the possible burden of retrieving a physician’s note. Poletes said. A self-declaration of absence can only be submitted twice Student health services offer on-campus physicians and per term. The declaration allows 1-3 consecutive days off. nurses to write sick notes for those who come forward with their illness. “If a student is not feeling particularly well on a given day, they can let the instructor know through these self-declara- “Documentation will only be provided for students who have tion notes that there was a medical reason for them to not been under the continuous care of a physician, registered attend a lecture or lab, or not being able to participate in nurse, social worker, psychologist/counselor, or psychiatrist some activity, or as a way to get any required extensions for management of verifiable long-term or chronic physical on some assignment deliverables,” said Raghav Sampangi, or mental health conditions,” said Director of Student WellComputer Science instructor. ness, Emily Huner. “It is important for all of us to take care of ourselves and take Students are urged to use the services provided to them. If time off work and classes through recovery,” he added. students are suffering, talking to someone can help – even if it is a friend or counselor. |w While this new method is still in the works, Sampangi is hopeful the project will continue. “I think we will have a better idea [of this project] by the end The Watch | January 2017 | @kingswatch 9

Oh, the weather outside Maddie Johnson

Well, it’s officially winter. The excitement of the first snowfall and the magic of the holiday season are behind us. School is back in session and reality is sinking in. It’s cold. Like, really cold. And it already feels like it’s never going to end.

SAD. The disorder typically begins to appear in people aged 20 or over, and this, combined with the added stress of exams and assignments, places university students at a much higher risk of developing some form of seasonal depression during their university career. As students in Being Canadian, I think most of the world thinks we’re the Maritimes, with the likelihood of particularly long and equipped with a special layer of skin to help us survive the brutal winters, it’s even more of a concern for us. dark, dreary months ahead. And honestly, maybe we are. But that doesn’t mean we’re all excited about it. For us But don’t worry, if you’re someone whose mood falls on the eastern shore, the first snowfall is always a doozy. faster than the thermometer, there are some scientifically And it usually means one of two things. Maybe you’re the proven lifestyle changes that may help brighten your spirkind of person who jumps for joy, digs out your forgotten its. ULifeline, an online resource for college mental health, snow gear from a box marked “winter” and runs outside. has compiled a list of tips that anyone can use to help Mouth wide open, attempting to catch the falling fluffy raise their mood during the winter months. white goodness, you dream about months of tobogganing, snow forts, ski hills and hot cocoa. Keeping active, brightening your environment, and staying positive are the most important. Exercise is already For the rest of the population, this glee is nowhere in proven to reduce symptoms of depression and raise ensight. The bright autumn colours have faded away, leav- dorphin levels in the brain, so it’s crucial to stay active in ing in their place barren landscapes and naked tree limbs. the winter months. For more severe cases, light therapy Brittle icicles cling to gutters as harsh winds rattle win- and other treatments can be prescribed. Sometimes the dow frames. Birds have escaped to warmer climates, answer is as simple as embracing the daylight while you and about half the population is wishing they could, too. can and staying social, but it’s dangerously common for While some are out, embracing their new world purified students to write off SAD symptoms as standard stress by snow, others are being suffocated by the literal dark- that comes from being in university. If you relate to any of ness that sets in way before dinnertime. these symptoms, don’t hesitate to speak with a friend or contact Dalhousie Health Services, just in case. If you feel like the gloomy weather may be directly affecting your mood, you’re probably right. Health experts re- Winter has come, but we’ll survive like we always do. So port that people generally feel happier, healthier and more if ever you feel like you can’t pull yourself out of bed in energetic during the longer and brighter days of summer, the morning, just think of that delicious Galley coffee and while their moods tend to drop during the shorter and it will get you through, one day at a time. And remember, duller days during the winter. The change in attitude is from now on every day is a little bit longer than the one commonly known as winter blues, winter depression, or before. So embrace your Canadian roots while you can, in more severe cases, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). and spring will be here soon. |w Symptoms of winter blues include anything from a general laziness to feeling tired all the time, weight gain, irritability, and rapid mood swings. All symptoms directly link with depression, except in this case they typically set in around October/November, when the days begin getting shorter, and can last into late spring. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 15 per cent of Canadians will experience a mild form of winter blues at some point in their life and further, two to three per cent will experience the more severe level of seasonal depression, 10 The Watch | January 2017 | @kingswatch

Activism through prose Alley Biniarz

“We are unstoppable; another world is possible.”

The drums of Rad Rhythms were in sync with the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Each activist’s heartbeat quickened and matched pace. The crowd was exhilarated and ready to take action, standing in solidarity with their U.S. brothers and sisters.

ing that female power goes beyond an office leader: women are survivors and always have been. “We are femmes, butches, trans, lesbians, women and women identified We are standing here with pride And still we rise, still we rise, still we rise.”

Over one million marchers around the world proved that the 45th President of the U.S. could never take away their rights without a fight, their voices too loud and too fierce to be ignored. When Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman, the public retaliated, and created the “nasty woman” campaign.

An uproar from like-minded people flooded the land and quickly fell silent when the bell tolled, heralding 2 p.m. and the words of current Halifax poet laureate, Rebecca Thomas.

“We are unstoppable; another world is possible.” The crowd echoed as they held their posters high: some blocked the faces of protestors, who embraced that they had, for a moment, morphed with their cause.

Thomas’ poem mirrored Jones’, empowering women and telling them that their magic is unstoppable. Despite society’s efforts at dulling that magic, telling women how to behave, Thomas challenges the patriarchy. She says she doesn’t believe in traditional roles set out for her.

Women. Men. Children: all taking their places around Halifax City Hall. A flood of different needs, all with the same root: finding a glimmer of hope in the otherwise hopeless.

“My magic fortified by yours and theirs Made me believe that I could be anything. So without further ado world, here I am.”

Some are chanting for access to their own bodies; others, for the freedom of animals. I look to my right and see a vertical Canadian flag draped on a poster with the words, “We have work to do,” slapped on the front, acknowledging that Canada too was taking a stand.

You could feel everyone’s magic flicker as they craved for more warmth from the ignited flame.

The protest began, setting the word “peace” as the intention. Peace is responded to with peace. Mi’kmaq Elder Marlene Companion and Grandmother Carla Silver cleansed the Parade Square with a smudging ceremony. Grandmother Carla rubbed tears from her eyes; she said, “Whatever your belief is, share with your brother and sister.” Her voice boomed over the drum, the beat paired with the trampling feet of a verse; poetry was the driving force at the women’s rally. The ten speakers chosen followed suit and shared their individual cause with the crowd, using the power of prose to address common issues and to stand together. “Poetry can move us from where we are to where we could be,” says poet El Jones. Jones performs, addressing the survival of women, sayThe Watch | January 2017 | @kingswatch 12

“Do you feel it?” She asked. “The magic that is right now.”

Then appeared Masuma Khan with a burning passion, speaking for one community living in unity, bringing a different cultural perspective to the women’s rally. She rhymes for a world where she’s “not questioned for every word” or seen as a token, a terrorist, or extremist. The Dalhousie student believes in a world where educated doesn’t mean “in debt.” Khan’s powerful words boom, asking the world “gently,” and challenging those in front of her. “I dare you to tell me to go back. This isn’t your land either. Go check white man’s geography. There’s enough blood to drown in. And I’m drownin’.” Political activism shone through the poetry movement and reminded Halifax of the power of the inauguration poem, or lack thereof.

“Poetry is at the root of all political activism,” says El Jones. It’s not about changing the language, but rather using poetry to form solutions. The audience members reacted by throwing arms around those next to them. The majority held hands, and embraced that there were no strangers in the crowd today.

Poetry turned to song and the rally group swayed, linked together, and chimed in to sing: “Lean on me” and “All you need is love.” I almost wanted to thank President Trump. Despite his attempt at division, the sister marches proved their collective strength.

Introducing, The Periodical In our four years at this school we only have time to study and think about so many things - too few things. This is new a column that explores topics that may be unfamiliar to many of us studying journalism and the humanities. Coel Edigar, a science major and journalism minor, writes from a student’s perspective, asking the strange scientific questions that many of us have, with one key difference - she knows a few of the answers.

Space: Forever a Frontier Coel Ediger

Four minutes to launch.

Lift off.

Sunrise is only hours away. The sky is clear, and stars glint in the night. In the distance stands a beacon. Floodlights reveal the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle. Its cargo: the Indiana Jones of planet-discovering machinery, the Kepler spacecraft.

At 3:49 am, on the morning of March 6, 2009, the Kepler spacecraft was catapulted into space.

Three minutes to launch. “It was incredible,” says Dr. Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They were counting it down just like in the movies.” Two minutes to launch. Equipped with the latest in imaging technology, Kepler will scour the night sky for planets outside of our solar system. One minute to launch. Kepler is being shot far out of our atmosphere and instead of orbiting the earth, as many satellites do, Kepler will orbit the sun.

The crowd cheers as the rockets blasts off. “They were just so relieved and joyful,” says Seager. “Do they laugh because they are so happy or cry? It was such an amazing experience.” Since the night at the launch, scientists have been feasting on a range of new planetary discoveries. We now know that every star has at least one planet, on average, and these planets can be incredibly diverse. “They can occur in every size, mass, and orbit imaginable,” says Seager. To date, the Kepler data has identified over 2,000 planets throughout our galaxy. What the Kepler data can’t tell us is whether or not something might be living on those planets.

Ten seconds.

“It is kind of like searching for gold: you found gold, and you’re going to stake it out. But in order to mine all that gold - that’s a whole other process,” says Seager. “We find planets in one way, and usually to characterize them and learn more about them we need a better telescope.”

Several scientists and their families watch in anticipation. Humanity is finally going to know just how common planets are in the universe.

That better ‘scope is the James Webb Space Telescope, which finished its construction in November. When the Webb is launched in 2018, it will be the largest telescope in

The Watch | January 2017 | @kingswatch 14

space. Its sunshade alone is the size of a tennis court. Without the convenience of warp-drive, scientists hope that the Webb will find atmospheric clues of life on distant earth-like planets.

of life survive in the harshest of conditions. Many made it through the extinction of the dinosaurs without batting an eye. Complex life, on the other hand, is much more fragile. It’s more likely to kick the asteroid-sized bucket. Which is why the sky is left empty.

Seager is one of many scientists who have been working on creating a catalogue of chemicals that signify life. There are approximately 14,000 molecules that are specific to earth’s pressure and temperature that scientists can look for. Seager says that while we are moving closer to understanding atmospheres, there’s a lot we still don’t know.

Dr. Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford, argues that if the little green men did exist, we would see a sky teeming with spaceships. He says that even if the probability for life was low, there are just so many planets that there would still be a cacophony of celestial traffic.

“We don’t know why earth’s atmosphere is what it is,” says Seager. “Why it’s the mass it is; why it has the composition it does. We don’t know what it was born with and how it evolves.”

Somewhere down the line of existence there is a roadblock that stops intelligent life, whether it be a tragedy of the heavens or a disaster on the ground. Life seems to stop somewhere.

Scientists can make a slew of educated guesses but once the Webb enters orbit and begins to collect data, astronomers will have a better grasp of what makes an atmosphere and how it can change.

Although technology is bringing us closer to discovering if we are truly alone, if no one is out there to begin with, perhaps the search is pointless. Maybe we are alone, cursed to survey the heavens in vain for the rest of our days.

Until the 2018 launch, scientists are theorizing that life can exist in outer space. Not the walking-talking-netflixing kind of life, but something much simpler. Small, single celled creatures are more resilient and adapt quicker than their furry or scaly counterparts. On earth, these miniature bubbles

The truth is, we just won’t know without more data. Until we find some form of life in the cosmos, scientists and theorists can only hum and haw about the possibility of extraterrestrials. If it happened once, couldn’t it happen again? Or are we the true freaks of nature? |w

The Watch | January 2017 | @kingswatch 15

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