As you might have noticed Nasa made the news today. According the media they are holding a news conference tomorrow at which they intend to disclose something significant regarding extraterrestrial life.
I for one can‘t wait to hear what it is they will be announcing. The realist in me says it will be something akin to: a probe launched from the international space station has discovered the possible presence of oxygen on a planet in the Andromeda Galaxy, or something else just as inconclusive. However, at the same time my inner optimist is expecting something a bit more exciting, something along the line of: a probe launched from the international space station has collided into an unknown spaceship hovering just outside the earth’s atmosphere. It appears to be preparing decent. Gather your loved ones, all the water you can carry and take to the hills.
There is not a doubt in my mind that there is life out there and that we are not alone. But at the same time I am equally certain that we will not be making contact with extra terrestrials anytime soon, if ever. The incredible vastness of space and the uncountable number of stars (assuming many with planets) makes for an unlikely chance encounter. The weak signals we send out could travel for eternity without ever even hitting anything of substance and the Voyager spacecrafts/time capsules will probably share the same fate. Sadly, the sheer gold records within their hull containing the data which identifies humanity, will never be hoisted by tentacled arms up against a purple sky in amazement. It is way too unlikely. I get goose bumps thinking about the two Voyagers advancing in solitary along the black vacuum, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
On top of this, in the unlikely case that our messages are intercepted would the alien life form share enough of our physical properties and senses to be able to decipher the information or even realize what they have stumbled upon? If one thinks about the incredible diversity in our own animal kingdom and the differences between Australian fauna and that of the other continents, one begins to doubt. A body of water is all that separates the duckbilled-webbed footed – egg laying - platypus and the more “traditional” mammals most of us are used to. Multiply these differences by the light years that separate us from the next planet and add to the mix varying temperatures, atmospheric content and radiation levels to name a few of the things that would influence evolution. Mind boggling, much like space itself.
I love astronomy, yet I could not be happier not to have chosen to study it. Recently, what I read regarding space theory makes me wonder if the science has not taken a detour on its way to understanding, and that perhaps some of the assumptions need to be revisited. My interest and speculations are those of a complete layman so I am probably drawing attention to my ignorance but still. My annoyance is aimed at the introduction of strange phenomena seemingly only invented to make calculations work. First it was black matter and now I note the appearance of black energy, something that was thrown in when adding black matter did not do the trick. These two “black” phenomena can’t be seen or measured in any way, and their existence is proven seemingly by the equation or theory they saved from semi-disgrace. To me this feels off and I would suggest a better theory be formulated before the need to add more “black” something or the other arises.
So. What do you hope will come out of tomorrow’s announcement? Some vague probe info? News of contact made? An actual alien under a white sheet? Me, I would prefer news of contact. A mysterious encrypted message in a language no one understands, but scientists and supercomputers would attempt to crack. The absolute best would be the finding of another species’ time capsule. Some sort of Voyager spaceship filled with outlandish information, artifacts and messages, reaching insignificant us after crossing the boundless infinity separating pretty green Earth from everything else outside our solar system. Something physical to gaze upon and wonder, knowing deep inside that the civilization that spawned it has long ceased to exist. To me this is would be much more exciting that the finding of an alien.
Why? Because it would probably look something like this: