Even a brilliant mind can seem like it's "jumped the shark" sometimes. Or not.
The eccentric, mega-IQ mind of Stephen Hawking has a Discovery Channel piece upcoming, wherein he postulates that, contrary to years of effort and various and assorted attempts, it is a very bad idea for us to reach out across the cosmos, in search of intelligent life.
Hawking may be too late to dissuade one American city and county on the subject, but we'll return to that momentarily.
His argument seems to suggest that such a search may well result in "be careful what you wish for", and that some forms of life out there, somewhere, might be even more predatory and conquest-oriented, than we as a species have been. Which could result in the ultimate of "hostile takeover" attempts, as have been depicted in sci-fi books and films for years.
I don't know how long it'll take The Daily Kos, HuffPo, Moron.Org, et al, to brand Hawking "anti-immigrant" and a "racist", but let's take a look at this from a more..uh...me-style.
Man has had a fascination with the notion that there must be intelligent life out there, beyond our simple Solar System (anyone watching our Congress of late, knows intelligent life can't be found there). And from Man's first visit to the Moon, there have been various and sundry efforts to reach out and touch an extraterrestrial. In 1972 and '73, Pioneers 10 and 11 were launched into the cosmos, destination....infinity. Aboard both, were symbols indicating our human community, and our approximate cosmic address. In 1977, Voyagers 1 and 2 were dispatched on a similar mission, bearing Earthly recordings of different sounds and ideas, to deliver to whom/whatsoever ultimately might find and collect them, at some point in the endless Sea of Deep Space & Time.
The short speech on one of the recordings by Jimmy Carter, it is hoped, won't be held against us. This might be the reason for Hawking's trepidation, but I digress.
In 2008, NASA 'beamed' a song by the Beatles -- Across The Universe -- as a message, in the direction of the star Polaris (aka, The North Star), to anyone/thing living in the cosmic vicinity thereof. Taking into account such things as physics, the speed of light, government regulation, ASCAP and union rules, it is estimated that the message will arrive in the Polaris neighborhood about the year 2439.
Perhaps Admiral James T. Kirk can do a time warp after the message is received, to tell us how it went over: as a "message of peace", or as an inciting-of-violence obscenity in Romulan, which folks in the future will no doubt wish to thank us for, by sending us a futuristic "Phfffffft!".
Of course, sound waves have been leaving the good ol' Earth for millenia. Granted, up until the advent of radio, any transmissions from Earth that might be eventually picked up by any kind of life form, would be primitive, or across various spectrums of stuff I don't know squat about. Say, when the volcanic island Krakatoa exploded in 1883, what some cosmic listening post in deep space might eventually here would be.....*boom*. How they might interpret that, well:
Alien 1: "Rack ack ack rack...*boom*?"
Alien 2: "Rack rack ACK rack ACK, *boom*!"
Together: "Rack ack ack ack ack ack...!"
By the same token, I know nothing more about deep space radio signals NASA has detected from distant quasars, that could be almost anything, from space noise, to alien programming ("At Xoeygeryg Spunkmeisen Gronificators, We Hold Your Loyalty In Our 27 Hands. Find Us For All Your Flatuminus Needs And Extenitalia. We're Prepostunationally Located In The Horsehead Nebula, For Easy Access! Mind Meld Today!").
With the advent of radio, and later TV, what human-caused signals may eventually reach intelligent life, well..."bang...ZOOM, Alice, to the MOON!"...."Who's on First? Yes, he is. So, Who's on First? You're right! I don't even know what I'm talking about!!!"....might have another race of beings wondering amongst themselves, their own equivalent of "WTF?".
Now, it's possible that advanced cultures in other areas of the cosmos have very delicate, powerful, and capable transceivers, to listen for things as subtle as...whale song. In Star Trek IV The Voyage Home, an alien race sends a probe to Earth, seeking to find out why, in the 23rd Century, they can no longer listen to George and Gracie whale-rap. This, of course, causes all sorts of havoc with human services and conditions -- the disruption of texting ability alone would cause the entire generation of teens to implode and bitch about having nothing to do -- and it takes a handful of humans, on another alien wessel, to go back in time to find the right species to respond to the alien probe. And having successfully done so, the probe does indeed, as Dr. McCoy ventured, get the answer it wants, so it can go do something else with itself.
And all's a happy ending, except for Admiral/Captain Kirk's latest girlfriend, who blows him off too, to go chase a pair of sea mammals 300 years after she wasn't supposed to be, anymore.
I'm sure the alien race that sent the probe, found this part totally non sequitur.
Of course, many have postulated about what a human/alien contact for the first time might be like: would it be more like ET, or like Mars Attacks! In the former case, a heart-warming universal enlightenment descends upon all the world. In the latter case, a bunch of until-now undetected Martians of dubious antecedence and odious intent, wreak all kinds of havoc on Earth -- other than performing the singular public service of hosing the Congress -- before being driven back to Mars by the songs of Slim Whitman.
Or maybe it would be somewhere in between, like in the first Outer Limits (TOS) episode (a personal favorite of my pet rock, Seymour), when an engineer who owns a radio station, makes contact with a race of beings totally unlike anything one would see today with modern CGI special effects. A gaffe on the part of another radio station employee winds up "sucking" the alien from his point of transmission, to Earth, where it doesn't go real good for a couple Earthlings, but ultimately the alien gets to make a James T. Kirk-like speech, warning of the ways of Man in the face of the unknown, before disappearing into the void like a hallucination of an honest politician.
I dunno....Hawking might be onto something here. Perhaps we, as "we" are collectively, aren't ready for contact with an alien intelligence. Perhaps we're already in contact, as aliens have infiltrated us, for study and analysis, to determine if we're worthy of future, more substantive contact. Or perhaps AlGore is the alien, sent to test human intelligence and gullibility; and those who bought into his AGW scam have so totally flunked, getting voted off an alien Cosmic Intelligence Idol show, without knowing they were auditioning.
Whatever the case, I'm not worried about the Beatles speaking for me to Polarisians; my chips will be cashed in long before 2439. And if something malevolent finds, and is offended by, Jimmy Carter's words on the Voyager, well...I'm not a registered Democrat, so no worries there.
In the case of a Mars Attacks! encounter, no worries there, either: I think I have a Slim Whitman album around here, somewhere. If not, I can substitute modern-day Bob Dylan or Ozzy Osbourne one; whale song would be easier to decipher, even for an alien.
Which I may have to do, thanks to a whacked-out ballot initiative that will be up to a vote of the City and County of Denver in 2010: whether to create a City & County Extraterrestrial Affairs Committee, or not. Whether the proponent of this ballot initiative, or those who signed onto it, are also medicinal marijuana prescription holders (which are currently spreading across the City & County like wildfire through a drought-infested forest), is not known.
But before the City & County votes to create this commission or not, perhaps every voter should be required to watch ET and Mars Attacks!, while sober and before voting, to get both up and downsides of the potential results.
At the very least, know that greeting a delegation of extraterrestrials with a release of peace doves, might go over like a fart in an avalanche zone.
Bottom line here: you might think the City and County of Denver is right; or, you might think that Stephen Hawking is right; or, you might wait to find out for yourself, when or if you are contacted by an extraterrestrial that doesn't present a green card, or demand your wallet.
If you find yourself in such a meeting, and it seems to be going well, you can always direct them to Denver; if not, you can try treating them like a wrong number, and respond with a no sprechen das Polarisian, boneless nachos, awpeterstain!
Or hope you have Slim Whitman on your iPod, blackberry, cell phone ring tone, etc...
Labels: alien encounters, Bob Dylan, Denver's ballot initiative on ET affairs, humor, Mars Attacks, Slim Whitman, Star Trek, Stephen Hawking, the Beatles, whales, WTF