Space scares me.
I suppose there will eventually be several installments of this column that could very well start with that first sentence. But there’s no better place to start than the Lovecraftian feeling of complete insignificance in the face of this vast universe.
Now that you’re done slashing your wrists and clawing at your eyes, I’ll begin.
My dad is a science buff. For a guy who spent much of his youth working in steel mills, he can surprise me at times. When I was a kid, he read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time more than once. He is also the only person who ever read and understood the book.
This, for a book claiming to be written for the mainstream reader, is not necessarily a ringing recommendation.
Granted, I don’t take polls by introducing myself to people with the following: “I’m Desmond, do you understand A Brief History of Time?” Also, when I tried to read it, I was twelve. But I’m pretty sure that my brain at twelve was far more capable of comprehending Hawking’s theories than the same brain is after almost two decades of systematic brain cell genocide.
So, when Dad e-mailed me a link to a video of a 3D representation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field telescope projection, it was no surprise. What did surprise me was what shows up when the Hubble Telescope focuses for five months on a chunk of black space that appears to be empty.
Visible in that formerly blank piece of space is roughly ten thousand galaxies that were created within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang.
The video shows light that began its journey to the telescope before Earth was a twinkle in the Old Ones’ eyes.
Still, this is not the scariest part of it all. A news story details Stephen Hawking's warnings against trying to talk to aliens. The article quotes Hawking that a life form looking for this kind of information would likely be out to "conquer and colonize."
Seriously, he writes books no one understands and he talks like a damned robot! We have to listen to this man.
I understand very little about theoretical physics but when a guy who talks like a robot writes extensively about subjects that leave me sucking my thumb in the fetal position plainly warns against provoking an invasion, I am wont to listen.
Unfortunately, several chunks of information have already been beamed out into space.
NASA broadcasted both "Across the Universe" by The Beatles and The Day the Earth Stood Still; a terrible song and a movie asking someone to conquer us. Way to go, dumbasses. At least it wasn’t the Keanu version.
On top of that, in the 1990s a Ukrainian satellite was used by people the world over to send interstellar phone calls. One of these was from a group of teenagers. I’m a high school teacher; this was not a good idea.
The first I know of information being sent to space was 1977’s Voyager launch which sent probes full of
gold records toward outer space. Both of these probes contain some of the heights of human sonic achievement and in several cases, noises from nature. Whale songs were the most highly publicized of the track listing.
Think of this. Only now are we as a race in the realm of being able to understand that an almost immeasurable amount of stars exists beyond our field of vision with anything but the most powerful of space telescopes. Any one of these stars could have a planet containing intelligent life revolving around it that is much older and far more advanced than ours. Let alone any of the stars in our own galaxy!
So some moron thought that it would be a good idea to send whale songs into space. Whales! An intelligent animal whose entire biological classification (Cetacea if you’re nasty!) has been in the process of being eradicated for millennia.
What did the whales say to the aliens, you think? I can postulate:
1. “Help! They’re killing us!”
2. “Even their most primitive people stab us and eat our flesh. The more advanced poison us, ensuring a slow and painful death!”
3. “Send more plankton!”
Here is what we can glean from this. Assuming the aliens are benevolent and don’t already want to scorch our entire atmosphere to build condos on hydrogen clouds, at best we can expect them to come down and liberate the whales by killing their oppressors: us!
That is, if they have a record player.