Universal Angst

By William J. Furney
The Bali Times

Looking at pictures of Earth taken by astronauts on the moon – the most well known is Earthrise by Apollo 8 crewmember William Anders in 1968 (before I was born) – there’s an overpowering sense of aloneness in the incomprehensibly vast surroundings, and it leads me to think that it’s this sense of terrifying isolation that drives people to seek solace in religion, which in a swish simplifies it all down to fairytale familiarity but with gifts at the end.

It’s mindboggling that in decades of actively searching, we’ve come up with nothing equating to other lifeforms on planets similar to ours, and it’s equally astounding that in all this incredible expanse, there’s not a hospitable place for humans to exist save our own.

This new image from a revamped Hubble is as dramatic as it is astounding:

It’s thought to be “gravitationally interacting galaxies,” according to NASA, with the one on the left having passed though the other, 400 million light-years from Earth. All the elements required to sustain human life are there, but not fused in the way we need them.

So are we alone? And do we care?

“We believe we are conducting the most profound search in human history – to know our beginnings and our place among the stars,” is the mission statement of the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and its chairman of the board, Frank Drake, has an equation for detecting astrobiology, as space-based life is termed. Here’s that scientific formula: N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

So far, of course, nothing’s turned up, but it may just be a case of time. It’s down to technology, or lack of it. One SETI scientist, Seth Shostak, predicted at a conference in the US recently that should effective – more powerful – technology evolve, it may be possible to receive signals from other intelligent beings by 2032.

Right now they’re searching the heavens with an array of radio dishes made possible by a huge donation ($25 million) from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, who would also like to know the secrets of our origins and those of possible others.

It’s all so mysterious, and unyielding. And if there’s one aspect of human evolution that’s so troubling, or perhaps ultimately revealing, it’s our ability to form intelligent thought that allows us to think about our existence and condition and forge ever-more sophisticated tools and machines and energy sources that may well one day carry our species to entire new worlds. It’s troubling because it makes us probe, and unsettles us as long as we don’t have the answers. Ergo, what evolutionary use? The answer is it’s our savior and will develop mankind to an elevated state centuries from now that we cannot even project.

Earth as a people incubator is indicated by the electromagnetic field generated by our spinning molten core that casts great caring arcs of energy far out into space to deflect shard-fields of solar radiation that would otherwise desiccate all forms of life on this planet.

We’ve been around only a short time, and been searching for answers even less. There’s a long, very long way to go, but those evolved beings of the distant future won’t know it, and maybe one day something will be revealed: that we have found the way to make use of the universe.


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