delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 37 NUMBER 1

Joe Fischer


How to Build a World From Little Knowledge Joe Fischer, AA8TA As I write this, the movie “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has been out for a few days.  I have not seen it and it may be a long time before I do, if ever.  There are some things about these movies (including all outer space types) that fascinate me though. For example, there are scenes where beings from other planets and galaxies get together for some reason.  All of them seem to breathe the same type of air that we do, have eyes that respond to visible light energy the same as we do, have bodies that seem suited for the gravitational and atmospheric pressure like we do, have organs that make vocalizations and have other organs for responding to those vocalizations and thus form an aural language like we do, etc.  Their bodies usually look a lot different than ours because they come from a different part of the universe after all.  Besides that, they exhibit human traits such as aggressiveness and are often portrayed as evil or sinister.  Much like we don’t trust outsiders or foreigners.  Most fascinating of all, perhaps, is that these creatures can communicate across vast stretches of the universe almost instantaneously. How should we view possible life in other parts of the universe or what a planet that hosts an advanced civilization is like?  It is hard since we have just a single data point to start with: our own Earth and the human race.  We also have some religious and pride attitudes that say that Earth is the only place where life like ours can exist. Decades ago, Percival Lowell studied Mars and came to the conclusion that it had canals with running water.  Extrapolating from Earth, he envisioned all kinds of things from there including the possibility that some sentient beings lived on Mars.  Some people made plans to try to communicate with these beings and such ideas even led to the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938.  Eventually, scientists concluded that Mars cannot host life as we know it and the “canals” were due to other processes.  Still, the idea of life on Mars carries on (though it may be fossilized life) and some people today think that we should colonize Mars in the near future. In 2009 the Kepler telescope was launched into space to try to detect planets orbiting other stars in a very small patch of the sky.  It has found over 2,000 such planets and other observations have found many more.  We still have no idea whether any of those planets might host some kind of life forms at least vaguely similar to us.  Some of the planets found orbit in their host star’s habitable zone where water can exist in liquid form.  But it is a long way from being possibly warm enough for water to exist to actually having water and then having a type of life that has advanced beyond bacteria or other simple things. When new planets are found that are near in size to the Earth and that are in their host star’s habitable zone, inevitably an artist will create an impression of what the planet looks like and how things might look from the surface of the planet.  This is strange to me considering we had very little idea of what Pluto looked like until the New Horizons probe went by it a few years ago.  It’s pretty hopeless to have a good chance of knowing what a small planet many trillions of miles away – way, way further from us than Pluto – will look like.  But in a hundred years, who knows? Good `ol people… always extrapolating all kinds of big stories from the smallest bits of evidence.  Good thing we usually don’t accept this for criminal offenses. 73, Joe, AA8TA
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