2009-03-12 / Sam Bari

A view of afar

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

This week produced a bit of exciting news to distract us from our ailing economy. NASA managed to launch Kepler, a $591 million space telescope designed to open a new era in planet detection. Now that is interesting.

When you go to your bank tomorrow morning to withdraw funds, there is a possibility that none will be available because the bank ran a little short, but we do have $591 million to send this gadget into space to check out if others are destroying their planets like we are destroying ours. Makes sense . . . or does it?

Forget about the money for a minute. Let's stop and think about what we human beings are doing. We are reasonably sure that space guys come around occasionally for a little look-see at us earthlings. They don't bother anybody, at least they haven't so far. They make their presence known, check us out for a few minutes, then they leave in a hurry. They haven't said anything, but they haven't been hostile.

We don't actually know if the alleged space craft that a few humans have witnessed are even piloted by alien life. For all we know, the space guys might be at home flying their drones around the galaxy just because they can.

We do know that unlike the space craft we have sent to other planets, they do not leave their space vehicles lying around as if our planet was the galaxy trash dump. They come and go and they take their stuff with them. We are not that considerate. We land on other planets and leave junk because we don't have the brains required to design space craft that we can return to earth. We can only hope they do not find this practice of littering to be offensive.

Let's use our imagination for a moment. Let's imagine that we are aliens living in another solar system. Let's say we are technologically advanced, way beyond the earthlings. We watch the earthlings now and again because they are amusing. Then one day the earthlings start sending things out into the galaxy that appear to be of an exploratory nature. If you were a space guy, wouldn't that cause you concern?

The only thing they know about Earth is that its inhabitants are hostile, violent, have no respect for their environment and little respect for their own kind. "What a bunch o' nuts!" they say to one another. "It's a good thing they are earthbound." Well . . . that no longer appears to be the case. The nuts have escaped.

Isn't it logical that a few of those space guys are going ask, "What are those earthlings doing? Why are they spying on us with that primitive telescope?"

Maybe, just maybe, they are not too happy with our newly found ability to expand our horizons.

Last week a rock about the size of the Astrodome barely missed hitting the earth. NASA allegedly has telescopes that track asteroids so they know when they are a threat to the planet. They did not see that one coming. They didn't even know it existed. It had neither name nor number. It just showed up.

Could it be that the asteroid was a symbolic shot across our bow? Maybe the space guys are not thrilled with our aggressive behavior so they hurled a rock at us just to let us know that they are not pleased.

Think about it. A few decades ago we landed a couple of guys on the moon. What's the first thing they did? They planted a flag. That symbolism is an arrogant move. Who are we to claim anything beyond our atmosphere as ours? How do we know that we are not violating rules of sovereignty in the galactic community?

For all we know, Planet Earth could belong to some galactic government other than our own. They leave us alone because we are not developed or civilized enough to be acceptable in their advanced society. To them, we are nothing more than a minor amusement that is fast becoming a major annoyance.

The point is: we are the new kids on the block out there. I don't think we should be marching around on what could be someone else's rock and arrogantly claim it as our own. That kind of aggressive behavior might not be well received.

The next rock the space guys hurl could land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and it could be the size of Manhattan. It would cause a tsunami 1,200 feet high moving at 500 miles per hour in four directions. I think that would get our attention.

I would hate to think what would happen if we discovered oil on a planet full of easily accessible minerals and we developed the technology to haul the stuff back to earth. We would probably be dumb enough to take what we wanted and discover that we were tapping some foreign planet's oil reserve and mineral bank. That would be akin to the U.S. going to Iran and pirating their wells. The owners could be upset.

Try to remember: We can live here in a system we can't understand, but I am not convinced that we will be permitted to live out there in a system we can't understand.

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