The Wide Angle: Are we really that interesting to watch?
A story passed through the AP wire recently that gave me pause. A survey of the night sky showed hundreds of potential habitable planets have clear line-of-sight to our little blue marble.
That’s a lot of potential voyeurs and suddenly makes me a little self-conscious stepping out of the shower for some reason.
According to the Associated Press astronomers, or people are a whole heck of a lot smarter than myself … clearly … calculated that 1,715 stars make up our local neighborhood (I personally would estimate at least 1,000 Kwik Trips as well) with said hundreds of planets with said clear views.
So that’s a lot of opportunity for advanced life to look out through their telescopes and ask the age-old question, “What are the Smiths up to now?”
Of course we can’t prove that and many astronomers have asked, “if they are there, why haven’t they reached out yet?”
“Where is everybody?” leaving the people of Earth to wonder if aliens gave us the wrong address just so we wouldn’t be able to attend whatever intergalactic party is being held.
We’re assuming of course that aliens would be using the same method we use to spot planets of faraway stars. Watch a star, wait for the light to dim somewhat and then begin all sorts of calculations that would leave us wondering if there is life there.
There are a bunch of numbers laid out in the story about how many more stars will have the same opportunity in the next so many years (5,000 if you really want to know) but you know how I feel about numbers.
Many, many thoughts have come to my imaginative skull stone and the first is “why?”
The story in question pointed to Wolf 359, sitting at a short jaunt of 7.9 light years (that’s lots of millions of years that I’m not going to figure out for you. Sometimes you just need to work out things for yourself).
Here’s why I ask “why.” Wolf 359, a red dwarf star, and its planetary minions have been able to see us clearly since the mid 1970s. That means if they were able to listen in on radio transmissions they likely heard disco and would reasonably think, “why?”
Oh sure, they might have heard the Bee Gees and they get an automatic pass because they be stayin’ alive.
Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing about disco that would encourage alien civilizations to think, “hey, they might be cool to hang with.”
You just know the word got out and now we’re standing in the corner of the party we were somehow able to stumble across, jammin’ to ourselves waiting for somebody to come talk with us.
This bit of knowledge now refines where we should be swinging telescopes and stuff to find aliens, but how do we know they aren’t behind the door, telling other aliens to be quite hoping we’ll just go away.
“Have you heard their music Dilnorf? Earthlings are nerds.”
On the other side, there are scientists who think we shouldn’t try to contact aliens because of the dangers posed by aliens who are more technologically advanced than we are.
That’s kind of elitist of us. That’s assuming aliens care about us at all, which isn’t surprising conidering we sometimes barely care about ourselves.
Ultimately, Reader 31, the chances, that we discover intelligent life in our galactic neighborhood in the near future is extremely minute so I guess we shouldn’t worry about it too much.
In the meantime though, just to be safe, maybe close your curtains.