Today I want to talk about space. I am not talking about the square footage contained in your home, rather the rather awesome distance that the known universe inhabits. As Douglas Adams once wrote, ‘Space is big, Space is very big, Space is so big you won’t believe how very big it really is.’ I couldn’t have out it better myself. To be more scientific, the light from the furthest stars that we can see, or rather from Quasars at the heart of distant galaxies has taken over nine billion light years to travel to us. And that is at the speed of light. Conventional travel modes would take hundreds of millions of times longer than that to travel. So we are not going there any time soon.
Closer targets would be the nearest stars contained within our own galaxy, the rather poetically named Milky Way. Even the nearest star to our own, Proxima Centuri, is over four light years away. That in itself would take us tens of thousands of years to travel to with the fastest known methods at our disposal. That’s a long way away, and probably 25 times the entire history of civilised man.
So the fact is, that without some breakthrough in warp travel, or the discovery of what has been till now, purely theoretical worm holes, we are not going anywhere fast. But we are trying. I wrote a blog on this subject a while back so I won’t go into too much detail, but every year we reach out further, and have even made our way out of our own solar system now. One day mankind will reach to the stars, but I doubt, much to my own personal disappointment that this will happen within my lifetime. I would just be happy to see a man on Mars, and I have some realistic hopes that we will achieve this. Of course this is going to take a combined effort by mankind, which may set it back a little.
The reason for this blog today is the news that SETI, that’s the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence want to ‘step up their search’. By this they mean they want to start actively trying to contact other life forms in our Galaxy. So they are discussing now what they want to send, and others are discussing the risks in doing this. There are worries that some technologically advanced species is going to turn up and annihilate our species. Which of course is a concern, but I’m more worried about how I’m going to pay my mortgage if I don’t get another job in the next few weeks, so excuse me if I don’t join in this particular debate.
The truth is we don’t know what, if anything at all is out there. It’s highly unlikely that there is another sentient race in ear shot anyway, remember Space is very big. The chances are if they do exist and have the technology to pick up whatever signal we decide to send, they would have already noticed all the noise floating out from our overcrowded airways anyway.
I think it would take thousands of years to make contact and by that time we should be ready to greet them with the necessary precautions anyway. One thing I know for sure, if they do bandy up in their huge spacecraft any time soon, we, as a race would have to sort out our own differences pretty fast, and that might just be a good thing.