A few nights back, to improve my sombre mood, induced by the shocking Trump win, my good wife took me to to see Arrival – an alien Sci-Fi movie; described in the Guardian as:
Arthur C Clarke famously said there are just two possibilities: that we are alone in the universe, or we aren’t, and both are equally terrifying. The first terror is harder to put on film, but director Denis Villeneuve brings the second to life with this freaky and audacious contact sci-fi – and makes it something other than terror. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer has adapted the novella Story of Your Life by the SF author Ted Chiang; he brings to it a Shyamalanesque lilt, and cleverly finesses the inevitable problem of how to end this kind of story: whether there is going to be any kind of departure. The movie skirts the edge of absurdity as anything like this must, but a forthright star performance from Amy Adams convinces you that something that could be silly is actually fascinating and deeply scary.
Quite coincidentally, the previous night, left alone with my Trump-Terror-Terminal mood, late at night in front of the TV, I juggled and jiggled with Amazon Films and with Netflix, that my teenage grandson had smuggled onto our media player and onto my credit-card – and I miraculously discovered how to download another Sci-Fi movie – Contact – also about aliens; which although from a previous millennium (1997) – was excellent and absorbing. I even forgot the dark dangers of Trump Ascending, The Anti-Christ and Armageddon.
Jody Foster at SETI received transmissions from Vega (a long, long way away) which showed the world how to build a space-ship to take one person to Vega (through worm-holes). She had to overcome the US military and Secret Services who naturally wanted to kill all the potential immigrants (“How do we know its not a gateway for an invading horde of monsters?” Or indeed Mexican rapists) – just as the same bone-headed folk wanted to kill all comers in Arrival. And she had to overcome her boss, stealing all the credit for her Nobel Prize worthy research – but she made the journey and met the aliens – in spirit form (rather like in Arrival) and it all ended on a note of hope. We are not alone in the universe, and its worth continuing our Quest.
Doubly, or triply coincidental – or is Jungian synchronicity; one of my colleagues, an Oxford professor of physics, has been asked to give a talk on Fermi’s Paradox – which simply asks “Given that the sky is jam packed with billions of galaxies, stars and so on, and that science estimates that there must be millions of other civilisations – where the hell are all the aliens?”.
As my professorial friend has been thinking through this paradox for about 50 years, without a solution, I thought I’d let it stew overnight, come at it from my one day’s exposure to the problem; a new approach so as to speak – and of course, I solved it early the next morning. Steeped in traditional physics, he probably hadn’t taken my unusual route to the answer – so I e-mailed it to him:
We are of the stuff of the universe, so from self-analysis we can extrapolate to all life forms. How might we be “visiting aliens” to other cultures? And so, vice-versa?
Up to 200 years ago, we could barely lift ourselves off the planet. So we can ignore our past, even though we may have been seeded by aliens to become Homo Sapiens.
Extrapolating our future evolution is the logical path to follow.
Being imperfect and vulnerable mechanisms, we are unlikely to create crafts that could protect us across light years. I think we would lose our identity and slowly disintegrate, and melt into Space (e.g. Fluffy Comets).
To send our culture across light years we would look to reducing it to the instruction manual – DNA.
Harvard Medical School has encoded the Bible etc. into DNA, a few strands, and sent it to London where it was legible.
But DNA is 4 acid bases, which are as vulnerable as ourselves. However, there are “hardened” viruses in space which survive. “We” might travel in that form.
We know of DNA. What is less explored is that each of the 4 bases are molecules, made from atoms in particular configurations. The atoms are organised electromagnetic complexes, in relationship to each other. The electromagnetic patterns in-form the DNA.
So, we could in theory reduce the DNA codes to electromagnetic codes or pulses. These could then be transmitted across light years.
At the other end of the journey, simply add energy (food), add water, stir and watch the alien creature unfold.
This might be how humanity arose. Perhaps such encoded instructions arrived just after the dinosaurs, inserted themselves into mammalian DNA – and Hey Presto. The aliens are here.
DNA packages are found in “free” space; comet tails etc. It is conceivable (pun) that all of space carries such data-rich-packs of instructions.
To communicate back to whence we came – we evolve and invent or re-discover radio. And then we discover how to use “spooky action at a distance” to bridge the time-gap. All such creativity is within us, waiting to unfold. I don’t think we Earthlings can cross b.l.y (billions of light years) in our adult water-carbon form.
Why we have eggs (size of a full stop) and sperm (a thousand times smaller) which need to merge to trigger growth in the right medium; is another question.
The aliens are here – and we are aliens “out there”.
Which just about wraps up it up for Fermi. And it means all those films and tales about alien invasions or contacts will now have to be revised. A boon and a boom time for Hollywood.
Closer to home is the fact that 2016 is the warmest year on record, the polar ice and mountain glaciers are melting faster than science has predicted and sea-level-rise (SLR) is about to afflict all coastal-margins – where 5 billion souls live. Buy Out of the Depths to learn our immediate future as London and New York flood – and buy AD 2516 – After Global Warming, to help steer mankind/ personkind to a wonderful (and I think realistic) future. Will the aliens come and save us?