Interstellar trash

In 2017 the asteroid/comet Oumuamua whizzed through our solar system. Recently Comet 21/Borisov, another interstellar wanderer has been detected. Two objects in as many years. This got me thinking about astrophysical opinions regarding the “emptiness of space.”

What if it’s not empty at all? What if it’s full of solar system trash, the debris of billions of years of supernovas spewing out the stuff of stars?

If the void between stars is not a void at all, if it’s chock full of debris, stellar-bits that we’re just now starting to detect, then there is no way in hell we—or anyone—could traverse the trillions of miles between stars. Were we to get a starship up to a fraction of lightspeed, anything larger than a grain of rice would destroy us.

The Sci-Fi theory of creating force-fields or “shields” to protect us is fantastical at best. “Passengers”, a great movie, showed us how tenuous the theory. All it would take would be one failure, out of thousands of successful avoidances (lasers, magnetic pulses, kinetic diverters, etc), would still be a failure.

Interstellar trash may be one answer why we don’t see an exo-civilization filling the galaxy; a possible Fermi’s Paradox solution.

 

Bow to your overlord: DNA

Just a brief “you should read this” note about Tim Urban’s Wait but Why site (a continual classic) and a series he’s been producing about society.

The Story of Us: Full Series

It takes hours to read, thoroughly, but worth the payoff. He exposes some clever, insightful glimpses into human behavior, couched in a Twinkie-consumable format.

I recommend it.

My personal favorite, a topic I’ve mentioned here before, DNA is our master.

Fossil fuel volcano

I’m reading Light of the Stars “Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth” — Adam Frank.

I’m about halfway through and so far Frank has supplied mostly background in his attempt, I’m assuming, to present various models — based on our solar system’s mechanics and planetary variations — to determine the probability of exo-civilizations, in the galaxy and the cosmos in general.

Humanity’s existence and technological capability is dependent on a host of serendipitous “coin-flips” all landing up heads. Two of the biggest and most impactful are plate tectonics and the availability of a billion years worth of stored solar energy in the form of fossil fuel.

Plate tectonics ensures that CO2 is recycled. (CO2 is fixed from the atmosphere as sediment and rock, calcium carbonate — limestone, taken below the crust, disassociated and then re-released by volcanoes around the planet.) Without this cycle, CO2 would stay fixed, the planet would cool (as it has done in the past) (Nitrogen and Oxygen, 78% and 21%, are not efficient greenhouse gases) and that would be it for Earth.

And we all know what fossil fuels have done for humanity; taken an energy starved species and give it unlimited access to millions of years of nearly-free solar power. Without fossil fuels, humanity would have killed off all the whales (for fuel), burned down all the forests (for fuel), and never seen the explosive population growth that produced copious ideas resulting in constant technological advancement.

WorldPopulationGrowthFossilFuels

Part of his premise (I’m guessing) is to determine the impact and potential mitigation of global warming during the Anthropocene. This unusual release of extra CO2 that is warming the planet is, as far as he’s concerned, a potential solution to the Fermi Paradox: exo-civilizations might kill themselves off by their shear size and impact on their planet.

As I read Adam Frank’s setup I thought about a strange “ready for fiction” story line:

What would happen if a volcano suddenly spawned beneath one (or more) vast crude oil fields? Imagine if a Kilauea sized volcano burst up from the sands of Saudi Arabia. The heat and fire would start the oil burning. Thirty mile-high plumes of smoke would spread out for decades. Nuclear winter would descend. This is much like what a super-volcano would do, but a smaller volcano would suffice to trigger the calamity.

This is typical, don’t you think, this reading of anything and the extrapolation of a fiction story from the material? The “what if”s. I thrive on them.

Earth: galactic laboratory

Here’s an alternative “Zoo” hypothesis regarding a solution to the Fermi Paradox. We’ll call it the Lab Hypothesis.

If you’ll recall, the Zoo Hypothesis is the idea that intelligent, space-faring cognizants exist and they, either a single species or a collective, have intentionally isolated Earth (we’re effectively quarantined) in order to allow humanity to sink-or-swim, as it were.

The Lab Hypothesis is similar, however, the determining factor is that outside intervention is not forbidden, only restricted. And that Earth is “mined” for the myriad lifeforms and organic compounds and molecules that are produced by those lifeforms.

Think, autonomous chemistry laboratory, which haphazardly creates and/or evolves millions of chemicals which are rare in the galaxy. These fabrications are collected by aliens (which might explain the errant sightings of spacecraft), and then sold/traded/used by other populations of intelligent races in the galaxy.

Consider that life is rare (so far — very rare). And that life itself is more capable when it comes to producing strange new chemicals. Even the most advanced AI-computers in the galaxy cannot calculate the working, stable combinations of elements that make up, say, vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, banana, okra, or cannabinoids, millions of chemical and drug compounds the corp-pharma industry searches for in the jungles of the world.

Life, nature, is just too good at making stuff up that works, on some level, to affect living beings, psychotropically, physically, or materially (spider silk for example).

So, Earth is a lab, and we’re lab-rats, and the thousands of spices, fragrances, liquids, intoxicants, etc. that we enjoy — our alien neighbors do too.

But they want to keep it a secret — and not risk polluting the petri-dish.

 

ET is an asshole

If intelligent extra terrestrial beings exist, and they have access to Earth, then they’re assholes. Hear me out…

If IETs (intelligent extra terrestrials) exist then they have the where-with-all to:
first) get here — across light years of space,
second) understand that we too are an intelligent race, and
third) intervene if they so choose, given their vast advances in technology.

  • Let’s assume they exist.
  • Let’s assume they know about us.
  • Let’s assume they have visited us (and are currently visiting us).
  • And let’s assume they’re not refugees, or small bands of wanderers, or scout/archeologists.

That is, they are a presence in the galaxy (or universe). They’re a real space faring race with the power and technology to affect their world — and ours. They’ve got it goin’ on.

If the IETs are aggressors, or bandits, or  conquers or bad dudes — then of course they’re assholes. So we can exclude those automatically.

But, if they’re not, if they’re peaceful, and inquisitive explorers (like I would expect Earthlings to be were we to someday explore the galaxy) then why the hell haven’t they come down and helped us? They must see us struggling down here; at each other’s throats; destroying our own world; over-populating it, polluting it, eating it up, killing off untold species. Yet they sit up there and WATCH?

“Oh, the Prime Directive says hands off.” What bullshit! What kind of race watches another race kill themselves when they could intervene and ameliorate the situation? Oh yeah — assholes.

Even if they don’t have the full capacity to help everyone, they must know that humanity is fraught with racial, gender and economic stresses that are tearing at the very fiber of our civilization; and that simply “knowing” they (IETs) exist would unite humanity under the umbrella of Homo Sapien Sapiens. Yet they do nothing? Why? Oh yeah – because they’re assholes.

And if they really don’t want to publicly denounce their Prime Directive, they could very easily “influence” a few engineers here and there to guide them on how to produce fusion, or anti-gravity, or some other advanced energy generation technology. Sneak down and whisper in their ears… Hell, whisper in Elon Musk’s ear. But have they? Will they? No they haven’t and won’t. Why? Because they’re assholes.

So, either intelligent extra terrestrial species don’t exist — or they’re all assholes.