Thursday, February 27, 2014

by the numbers

A lot of people already think I'm crazy when I talk about this, but for the life of me I can't think of why this isn't bigger news.
Before the Kepler spacecraft had a malfunction last year, it sent us a ton of data for us to check and verify. Guess what? We've quadrupled the number of planets outside the solar system.
1,750 planets found in the habitable zones around other stars. If a planet is found to have an orbit comparable to, say Venus, Earth, or Mars, it is said to be in the Goldielocks zone. Not too hot, not too cold. Water has a good chance of being in a liquid state on these planets, and where there's water...

The armchair quarterback in me thinks we are about to go from possibility to probability, in discovering extraterrestrial life.

Okay, problem #1: We're too far away to do anything about it! As much as I'd like to believe it, we are not going to engage the warp drive to get there. Instead, we're going to bend a law of physics or two. Scientists are working on teleportation. I'm not sure how, not sure when, but that looks like the way things are going to happen.
We'll use regular sub-light travel to get around the solar system, which is fine by me.

We will 'never' have a face-to-face meeting with another race. Sorry sci-fi fans, no green skinned girls for you. H.G. Wells hit on it first: Our germs and viruses would wipe out another race, just as their germs would kill us.
Solution: Suits and Avatars. Let's skip ahead and say we got to another solar system and want to go down to meet the natives. We're going to have to do it in a sealed environment space suit. I recall my world history. When explorers came to the New World, they brought with them bacteria and viruses the Native Americans had not been exposed to, ever. From my history lessons I recall whole tribes falling ill to measles or small pox. Now imagine that on a larger scale. Our first contact could be our (or thier.) last.
Now how about a halfway step?
We send a hologram of ourselves. They see us, we see them. 

Language will be a problem. We will have to communicate using the one thing they will hopefully understand: mathematics.
That's why the golden disk on the Voyager probes are so darn important: they contain some mathematical equations. Most notably the 14 closest pulsars to us, thereby telling the aliens where our home world is located.

Even if we discover an alien race and establish contact via hologram, we're going to have to have a protocol in place dealing with how we establish contact. More importantly, when. If we discovered an alien race of reptiles, but they have yet to invent gunpowder, I say leave them alone.

We don't have to own the stars and planets. Standing on their surface and witnessing the majesty of the stars, that's ownership enough.

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