Sunday, April 26, 2015

As promised

Sad to say, my Spurs are going back to L.A.
No, I didn't mean that to rhyme. Instead of focusing on the sad news, I'm going to look for the silver lining. The Clippers can and will  be beaten. I caught the end of the Celtics and Cavaliers game. Am I the only one who remembers when the Celtics were a force to be reckoned with? Ah, Larry Bird, we miss you. But that's not what we're here to talk about.
New Horizons is set to become the 5th man-made object to leave the solar system. Pioneer 11 and 12, as well as Voyager 1 and 2 went before with a plaque or a golden disk to tell alien life forms 'We Are Here'. (Historically, announcing your presence is not a good idea.) New Horizons left without any such message for extraterrestrial life to discover. But it's not too late. Instead, we can program a message on New Horizons for ET to discover. It's a crowd funded message in a bottle.
My personal take on the plaques, disks, and binary codes for alien lifeforms to discover?
It's a long shot. Altruistic, with only the slightest chance of ever contacting an alien life civilization.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.
The extent of Human radio broadcasts is roughly 200 light years in diameter. We've been broadcasting radio waves since their invention by Marconi and encompassed this much of the galaxy.
Certainly puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
Assuming there is a civilization in our galactic neighborhood, it will take them at least that long to respond. That is assuming they are listening and have the means to respond.
Our robots will not be the first messengers to the stars. Our radio signals will be.
We're operating on a lot of assumptions here. Scientists believe there have been five, possibly six, mass extinctions on earth already. 
To me, life does happen. Millions of years of evolution resulting in one or two species coming out on top. One wonders what the dolphins, whales, and octopuses would have to say about our planet?
We are on the fifth or sixth attempt for space faring life to evolve. Assuming another civilization got off on the second or third go round at developing with a few million years of a head start, they most certainly would be beyond our current technological level.
But what if they weren't? Alien life forms that have only come around in the last couple of million years? They too could be just discovering radio waves and we wouldn't know it. Not for another century or two.
So we got to a technological level where we can start shouting out into the galaxy as well as sending tiny robots as messengers. That is quite an achievement, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
We're going to eventually get radio waves from another civilization. They will be disjointed and incoherent. We may not even recognize them as what they appear to be. Let's put the shoe on the other foot. What is another civilization going to make of the Marx Brothers or Hitler's Berlin Olympic games speech?
Like it or not, those will be our first emissaries.
Keplar 186-f is an exo-planet we think can harbor life. It is roughly 490 light years away. Okay, I'm armchair quarterbacking here... Assuming life is on the planet, as well as a civilization comparable to ours, they'll receive our first transmissions in about 400 years. Conversely, we might be getting a message from them in about the same time. That is assuming they are on a tech level similar to ours. If they're more advanced, it may be sooner.
We may not come in contact with ET in my lifetime, but we should keep talking, sending out signals to other species. There isn't going to be a real time interface, not in this millennium.
Remember: gazing up at the stars you are also looking into the past. It took uncounted millions of years for the light to reach earth. Imagine the light from our sun, traveling the cosmos. An alien race with a very large telescope and uncanny resolution would see dinosaurs and might assume the human race to be reptilian in origin.
Bottom line: We will discover life, but it will be by accident.

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