The other day, I sat with Mike Paul Hughes, a genuine rocket scientist and researcher at Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, to talk about Stephen Hawking and see where the discussion went from there.

Hawking based his beliefs on the simple scientific evidence that the universe is far older than the earth’s biblical age, and went on to discuss the logic of his findings. But within that track was another incredibly simple insight that for some reason I’d never considered.

We children of the television and film culture are conditioned to accept the theory of infinite variety in living things, and that is surely impacted with the sheer variety of life forms right here on earth, let alone out There. Sci-Fi would have us accept that virtually anything is possible (well and good) which in the life sector could mean a fish is as vibrant as a desk lamp as a flying lawn ornament as a breathing rock slide.

On TV, life forms from other planets morph from giant octopi to tribbles, mile-long snakes and planet size mouth-breathing moss. We have learned to expect this insane variety because it entertains and educates: anything is possible out there, like this magic goo, which can throw a ball or eat a football stadium.

But here’s the thing: if you buy into the Big Bang, then a star is a star, space is space and distance is meaningless. The nearest neighboring solar system is four light-years away and there are billions of galaxies supporting the possibility of gazillions of life-supporting planets and dammit, none of them appear to be near enough to us to make travel to and fro a reality, maybe… ever.

Distance aside, accepting that we earthlings are a product of that Big Bang and the atomic particles, minerals, atoms, DNA that was showered and fostered on home sweet home, then it follows the SAME stuff would have fallen on every OTHER planet, by the way. And that simple logic means that we are likely a whole lot more related to the life forms on other planets than Gene and George might care to admit which means (I’m getting there, now) given that we all come from the same star stuff, then we all likely need air and water to sustain life and therefore… are likely to be a whole lot more SAME than different ANYWHERE in the universe. (!!!!!)

The Same. Kinda stunning when you think about it, eh? If the puzzle pieces match, then why shouldn’t the assembled pictures? Mom, dad, meet my extra-terrestrial girlfriend Zorthra. Green hair, long fingernails and a funny accent but otherwise… oh, so Basically Human.

Same building blocks. Same elements for survival and reproduction. Same basic results. Same species, just a different planet.

Huh – as simple as that?

-James Mandell