Home Alone? Maybe not.
Posted by Euroranger on February 2, 2012
So, if it’s not evident by now, I’m kind of a fan of space travel and science-y type stuff like that. When I was younger, my quest to become a scientist (I really liked and was quite good at chemistry) was neatly derailed by an impervious mental block I had with calculus. I took calculus a grand total of 4 times in my education career and never scored higher than the mid-40s in any attempt. For whatever reason my brain, which could do the spatial gymnastics of chemistry and quantum physical states just fine, simply refused to grasp the concept of imaginary numbers. It is what effectively stopped my education in the sciences and diverted me to history…and it is a lack I still lament to this day. I can grasp almost every obscure, theoretical conversation to be had in science but apply math to it? Not a chance.
Anyway, when I was younger I devoured astronomy. I attended an evening course at a local observatory when we lived in West Virginia, knew everything there was to know about the Apollo missions and I even vaguely recall being awakened and plopped down in front of the TV when I was still less than three years old so I could see Neil Armstrong take man’s first steps onto the Moon. Since that moment, if it had to do with space exploration, I would read it. While I couldn’t professionally contribute to the field I was so interested in, I would sometimes reflect on a question that science still strives to answer today. Now this will sound corny and way more than a little nerdy but I’d find myself considering the many factors that had to go into the rise of life on Earth and, given those factors and the combinations they had to occur in, what the chances were for there to be a parallel occurrence elsewhere in the galaxy. Like for instance, whenever there’d be a UFO show on TV and they’re showing artists renderings or even grainy, fuzzy photographs of actual UFOs, I’d think of all that implied about intelligent life elsewhere and what certain things you could infer if you were to accept that an alien race was buzzing around our general vicinity in ships that sometimes look suspiciously like hubcaps.
This ends up sounding something like this. If there’s a spaceship crewed with more than 1 alien you can assume:
- They have physical form (they need spaceships to travel)
- With physical form you can assume they’re not invincible (they need protection from the hazards of space, can’t breathe vacuum, etc)
- They have a culture (a single being cannot, on its own, construct a spaceship) and they are curious (because they went to the trouble to build something to leave their home with)
- Their culture features cooperative relationships (needed to collectively build a spaceship)
- They have education and a means of preserving learning (because a single generation can’t learn everything it needs to learn in order to build a spaceship)
- This suggests they’re capable of appreciating past and future tense of time (not necessarily a given) and it suggests they age and die (also, not necessarily a given)
- If they’re here then they’re capable of empathy because they aren’t warlike nor attempting to contact us directly when they’ve encountered us. They put themselves in our position (hell, this may also suggest they’ve BEEN in our position)
- Considering just the existence of the spaceship suggests they’re accomplished in language, logic, mathematics, metallurgy (which also suggests other skills like mastering fire, mining, etc), measurement, electrical engineering, locomotion (whatever matter to energy propulsion system they use), medicine, agriculture (they need a way to sustain themselves away from their world which suggests coming up with excess food for a long trip or being able to continually produce food during the trip), government (some kind of collective effort is needed for many of these)
- If you consider just the metallurgy aspect then you can infer they’re not the only species on their planet as evolutionary forces existed for them to be pushed in the direction of discovery of something durable and more workable than the rocks they almost certainly found around themselves early in their existence. Being a hunted species is a powerful competitive force and leads one to try and develop better and more effective weapons with which to defend oneself. Mining (the way they get metals) suggests there is a fuel source for fire and that they had achieved some system wherein some individuals had time to take from food provision to turn to curiosity and discovery of raw materials they could turn into metal.
- You can also assume a number of things about their home world such as it has a source of free running water which, in turn, suggests that it’s mean temperature is probably not too different from our own planet’s. Their planet provides at least a modicum of materials to constitute a food source and this suggests plant life of some variety at some point in their evolution which further suggests water, light and warmth are some key necessary conditions for life to form.
- The planet they come from probably has a somewhat similar atmosphere as combustion typically requires oxygen to occur and you’d need combustion as a precursor to being able to reproduce heat at will (for survival) and great amounts of heat for forging and smelting (again with the metallurgy). Because water pretty much has to be present, the likelihood is that oxygen is there too (being 2/3 of what makes up water).
- Their planet likely has a liquid metal center to it which can be suggestive of age and planetary mass. The liquid metal center would generate a magnetic bubble around the planet that would allow life to form and evolve without the excessive interference of cosmic rays or nearby stellar radiation. Planets without such a center wouldn’t have a protective shield against such radiation and life would find it much more difficult to arise and evolve (although maybe not impossible).
- Given the likely necessity of a magnetic radiation shield (ours is called the Van Allen Belt, by the way) and the attendant implied planetary size range, you can also possibly deduce a range for gravitational strength…which in turn can suggest possible physical forms for the aliens. For instance, if they can build and explore but do so without having to physically make contact this suggests they have vision of some variety which also infers their bodies have cellular structures which can be differentiated into different organs and such.
Anyhow, just some of the things my brain does when I’m not gainfully occupying it by playing online video games. It wanders like that. Oh, and the reason I mention this at all is because of this news article I just read earlier today got me to thinking about just that very alien life. It seems a couple of the assumptions I’d formed over the past many years since childhood are reasonable. Scientists say they’ve located a nearby system (a trinary star system though!) that has a planet that sits smack in the middle of that system’s habitable zone…which is the zone where surface temperatures are just right for liquid water. Within just the next few years our telescopes will be able to not only detect these planets via the gravitational wobble they impart to their parent star(s) but we’ll be able to visualize them directly (gather light reflected from them). Once that happens, it means, in theory that we’ll be able to do a spectral analysis of that light…to see what colors got reflected by the planet. If we see lots of green and blue…that suggests plant life on landforms and oceans.
Exciting times to be paying attention to science, for sure.
My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.