are we alone?

I know this is way out off base from my usual topic, but, seeing as I used to be obsessed with being an astronaut when I grew up (all the way until I took my first physics class in college and *hated* the teacher and couldn’t understand the any of the teaching assistants)… bear with me.

A recent New York Times article (published 1/30/11) titled “Gazing Afar for Other Earths, and Other Beings” caught my eye and has reignited my imagination. We don’t hear much about space exploration these days. Sure, NASA issues the periodic press release, and when a major milestone passes (such as the January 26 anniversary of the Challenger tragedy) we pause for a few moments to say a prayer and reflect on how far we’ve come since.

I’ve already admitted elsewhere on this blog to my infatuation with the movie “Contact”. I’ve always dreamed about visiting other solar systems, being a pioneer for humans… I used to write stories as a girl, a la Ray Bradbury*, about exploring new planets. I’d even record myself, reading the stories aloud while cranking a little music box for my eerie background music. Man, what I wouldn’t give to get one of those tapes back.


[See, proof that even as a girl I wanted to be a writer!]

… back to my point … ??? … ah, yes …

Naturally I was thrilled when I ran across this article. Here’s a man who, years after he should have headed out in an RV to tour our national parks (*cough* before they’re all gone *cough*), is still working his tail off to offer solid statistical evidence of inhabitable planets and systems within our reach. Sorta.

And let’s face it. If we’re advanced enough to blow ourselves up, shouldn’t we also at least be thinking about getting ourselves off of Earth first? Unless we’re on a suicide mission.

If we’re advanced enough to dictate to others how they should live their lives or take care of their bodies, then shouldn’t we take responsibility, too, for how we’re treating this planet?

Okay. Enough soap boxing.

One of my favorite passages from this article:

“This is more than just an intellectual exercise, scientists say. Traditional religious images of ourselves as God’s creatures, or even of God, could be in for a rough time if we ever discover pond scum living by completely alien chemical rules on some moon or planet, let alone the Borg — the alien race ruled by a collective mind on “Star Trek” — inhabiting some distant realm.

“Moreover, as astronomers keep reminding us, humanity will eventually lose Earth as its home, whether because of global warming or the ultimate plague or a killer asteroid or the Sun’s inevitable demise. Before then, if we want the universe to remember us or even know we were here, we need to get away.”

I like to think of myself as pretty open-minded, but finding out we’re not alone in the universe would be a soul-shaking revelation. Mind boggling. Earth-shattering and head-rolling and terrifying and life-upside-down-flipping.

And yet, how fantastic!

What would you do if you found out we weren’t the only God-made beings in existence?

* My favorite Bradbury story was “Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed“.

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