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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Being patient

Situations in my life are trying to teach me lessons. Either that or I'm drawing some strange conclusions from what's going on around me.
So my daily routine is hectic and complicated. Therefore I must strive to be more patient, focusing on what's important. When people are being pricks, I have to show patience and rise above the petty bullshit. That pretty much describes my day job in one sentence.
Another kind of patience came about this week. The Kepler spacecraft put itself in emergency mode, threatening it's ongoing mission.
What is unknown is what made it go into a little blue screen of death. Scientists and the mission engineers have to be patient, after all Kepler is 75 million miles from Earth. Signals take seven and a half minutes to get there. Just saying, 'Hi, how are you?' and 'I'm fine,' takes 13 minutes! Ah, the reality of space exploration.
So far Kepler had been pointed at the constellation Cygnus and the results are spectacular. 4,000 planets! Now of course these sightings must be confirmed. We've got 1,000 confirmed planets. Scientists have to pour over the data and sift all the facts out before coming to a conclusion. This isn't CNN, we have to verify the findings before making an official statement.
The planet hunter that could is moving on to it's next mission: Pointing itself toward the center of the Milky Way to look for more planets.
The question I get from time to time goes sort of like this: 'How come we haven't met aliens yet?'
Yeah, I wonder about that too.
Many people don't understand the size and scope of our galaxy. We are literally looking into the past when we gaze up with our telescopes. It is entirely possible that a civilization has sprung up on a planet we've observed in our neighborhood, but the light and tell tale signs haven't reached our radios yet.
Say you were 100 million light years away from Earth and you built a large telescope. Pointing your very large radio antennae at Earth, you hope to get a picture of your home planet. Guess what? You would see dinosaurs.
Size and scope.

Enrico Fermi was an Italian Physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. In the 1950's Fermi came up with what is now known as Fermi's paradox. Bear with me here, I don't have a date for when he first proposed this idea. Here's the condensed version.

  • With billions of stars in the galaxy similar to our Sun, many older than our star.
  • There is a high probability that these stars have habitable planets orbiting them.
  • In that number of habitable planets, there is a high probability of civilizations on even a percentage of them. We're still talking hundreds of millions of alien life forms.
  • A conservative estimate of these civilizations would develop space travel like we are now.
  • So where are they?
The odds are still heavily in our favor of being visited by E.T. and there have been many theories surrounding Fermi's paradox.
Perhaps at this very moment there is a message streaking it's way across the stars, but it won't get here right away.
Size and scope. There is a picture I saw on the web. Let me try my Google-fu.
This came from a blog post by Emily Lakdawalla. She in turn got it from Adam Grossman and his blog.
Hey, cite the source when possible.
That tiny blue dot is how far our signals have gotten in the galaxy. In the center of that pixel is us, not visible to the naked eye. Puts things in perspective doesn't it?
Be patient my friends. The odds are heavily in favor of there being life out there. We'll find it eventually.


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