Phasers on Stun (just in case)

I wrote this in July of 2015. Sometimes it's fun to see what was happening back then. Have a read and see what's changed since then...

It's been an interesting week with regard to space news.  Data continues to stream back from New Horizons as it flies by Pluto.  Pluto has an atmosphere, a geologically active surface, "ice" floes (but not frozen water) and now surface features are being named after significant figures such as Tombaugh and Sputnik. But that was last week, old news in this era of "so what have you done for me lately".  This week I was interested to see that Stephen Hawking was endorsing a new attempt to find life in space.  A group calling themselves Breakthrough Initiatives has the support of a Russian billionaire and $100 million that he put up to find ET.  What I found curious is that five years ago, Hawking warned us that we should never let any other civilization know that we are here because they WILL be hostile.  He figures that after a long trip, they will need and then take our resources as well as use us as their slaves.  And there won't be anything we can do about it. Its like this...if you walk down the street, what are the chances that you bump into someone who is exactly your age?  Same birthday, same year.  Not likely right?  That person will likely be several months or years younger or older than you. Now translate that into space "age".  The universe operates routinely in the realm of millions or billions of years.  "Any day now" in space-talk could be hundreds of thousands of years or more.  So if we "bump into" a group of beings from another planet, and they have come all this way to Earth, then they will have technology better than we have and definitely will be more advanced than us.  Hawking estimates that they would most likely be at least a million years ahead of us.  So it's best that they don't know that we are here at all. But this week, Hawking's quote was "we are human, we are intelligent, we need to know".  So he thinks that it is a good idea to hunt for little green men.  I guess he had a change of heart.  And his timing is good since the second big announcement this week was that the Kepler Telescope that actually orbits the Sun in an Earth-like orbit, has found another exoplanet (about 4000 are being studied now since the first was discovered in 1995).  The unique thing about this one is that it is like Earth, being a terrestrial planet, orbiting a star very similar to the Sun in the Goldilock's zone where it is not too hot and not too cold.  This means liquid water and the possibility of life! A big obstacle to overcome if we are to send a greeting card, is that it is 1400 light years away.  At this distance, it would take our fastest spacecraft (presently New Horizons at 68,000kph) about 25 million years to get there.  Even at the speed of light, it will still take 1400 years to cross the distance.  And by the time we get there, or they got here, we would have to wonder if either civilization was able to overcome and survive the development of such inevitable technologies as the internal combustion engine and the resulting climate change, nuclear power and ultimately nuclear weapons and super resistance among their bacterial diseases.  Will there be a civilization that will even be there to communicate with? These are some of the reasons that NASA and other space agencies will continue to send robotic missions.  Distance and time are two very difficult things for humans to overcome.  You can easily see that as it's been now over 45 years since an Earthling has gone anywhere other than low Earth orbit.  Mars is fun to talk about going to but ask the astronaut how fun it is to be outside of Earth's protective magnetic field for the 8 month trip to Mars.  That's something that I'd like to keep my DNA from experiencing!! Now of course Stephen Hawking has got to be one of the longest survivors of ALS, having lived with it for 50 years.  (Remember the ice bucket challenge from the summer of 2014?).  So maybe with that kind of longevity in the face of such adversity, we can give him that latitude to change his mind.  Everyone has the right to an opinion.  As a human species, we have to decide if communicating with other beings from other planets will be a risky or rewarding venture.  So, what do you think we should do?

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