Planets are Like People
I have spent my life trying to understand everything around me. From the dirt below, to the stars above, and even the atmosphere in between. And I have learned, as a reluctant human, that all understanding is essentially useless unless it helps you understand other people. You are more likely to encounter another person than you are to set foot on Venus or orbit around Saturn. Still, understanding planets is a worthwhile endeavor, because planets are like people.
There are basically three types of planet that we know of so far. There are dead rocky planets, living rocky planets, and gas giants.
Dead rocky planets include Mercury, Mars, Venus, the dwarf planets, and various moons in the solar system. These are the most common type of world. As such, these planets are like the most common people you encounter. They are steadfast and resilient, always able to be counted on to stay in their orbits. And that’s about it. These worlds might have a lot going on beneath the surface, just like common people probably have a lot going on in their head. But we can never really know for sure. So until something dramatic happens, dead rocky planets are just common. Nothing wrong with common, though.
The next type of planet is anything but common. Living rocky worlds are so rare that we only know about one: Earth. But there might be more out there. Living planets like Earth are vibrant and amazing, right on the surface for everyone to see. Some people are like the Earth. They are diverse and vibrant and make everything around better. But, just like the Earth, these people are also very fragile. An unexpected shift in the delicate equilibrium could ruin everything. If you encounter an Earth-like person, you should take care of them, because they can be ruined rather quickly.
Gas giants are the least interesting of all the planets. “But wait,” you might say, “What about the Rings of Saturn or the Moons of Jupiter?”
I agree, those are interesting features, but they aren’t the gas giants themselves. Just things that orbit the gas giants. Gas giants are worlds that gobble up all the resources, and force other, more interesting things to circle around them.
We all know people that are like gas giants. Massively bland individuals that always get their way because they are bigger than everyone else.
Gas giants are bullies. Gas giants are pigs. And gas giants are arguably the most important objects in the solar system. Earth may be vibrant and beautiful. Mars may be steadfast and stable. If you removed either of these worlds all the other planets would probably just keep on spinning. But if you suddenly got rid of Jupiter , the other planets would have a really bad time.
People are like planets. Most of us are just normal, but interesting in our own right. Maybe we spin backwards or something. A very few of us are extra-special, like the Earth, but those people are weak and easily disturbed. And then there are those of us that, for whatever reason, have a lot more weight to throw around. These gas giant people are the most important, but only because they have the capacity to ruin everything for the entire system.
If this doesn’t sound fair to you, it’s because its not. Earth and Mars and even little icy comets should have a say in the workings of the system, but they don’t. Jupiter and Saturn are in charge, and that’s just all there is to it.
Gas giants get in everyone’s way, and they consume all the best stuff. Still, if it weren’t for them, we might all get pummeled by asteroids.