Friday, 17 February 2012

But Why Would They Come?

Okay, so we can all likely agree that the other stars are a long way from here. But if we ignore this by saying that another civilization is using multigenerational ships to travel say something like what I'm assuming they were trying to portray in the movie "Independence Day". I say assuming as they definitely didn't saying anything about faster-than-light drives, etc. and the only time we saw the mother ship is was either moving at a relatively normal speed for spacecraft, or it was in orbit (yeah I know this is assuming a lot but I figure they didn't mention it so we can ignore it). So for sake of argument an alien race shows up in our stellar neighbourhood, the big question would be why would they bother to come here in the first place?

Let's face it human's aren't exactly going to attract any other civilizations. We've only had the ability to transmit data electronically for under 100 years (1907 for radio, 1918 for television). These first broadcast signals were very weak compared to what w have today so we can likely shave a fair number of years off these as well as by the time they got out into space any distance their signal strength would be extremely weak. So for sake of argument let's say that we have been transmitting for seventy years at a decent signal strength to reach anybody who might be listening - that puts us in 1942.

So sometime in the last seventy years a spacefaring civilization picked up our signals, and figured out what they were. After all not only would the signal strength be very weak, but whoever was listening wouldn't know any of our languages. But is we assume that they puzzled out that they were from an intelligence race of beings and decided to visit then we have another problem, which relates back to the previous posting I made, and that's distance and consequently the speed their ship can travel at.

In order for extraterrestrials to be visiting us today in 2012, and assuming they left home as soon as they detected the signal (the ships were ready to go all they had to do was shut the hatch and step on the accelerator), and further assuming they can travel at the generous speed of ten percent of the speed of light then that means the furthest away they can be from us is three point five light years (which would give them a thirty-five year journey). If by some chance they can get extremely close to the speed of light (by the way I am intentionally ignoring the time dilation effects) then this allows them to be further away but only thirty-five light years. But why do I say thirty-five is the maximum?

I set thirty-five for a maximum because I first assumed we have only been transmitting for about seventy years. Which means that the signals from 1942 are just now reaching the vicinity of Zeta Lepus (which happens to be 70 light years away), but even if a ship left there right now, it wouldn't get here until 2082 if they could travel at light speed (or close enough not to matter) and that's seventy years from now. So we're back to thirty-five year issue (thirty-five for the signal to get to them, and thirty-five for them to get to us - remember we're assuming they can travel close to light speed).

But once again why would they come? Thirty-five years ago the signals that were coming from good ol' Mother Earth were things such as "It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown", "Eight is Enough", "Soap", "CHiPS", and "The Love Boat" - not exactly anything that would attract an intergalactic civilization - unless of course they were intergalactic police, and wanted to protect the citizens of the galaxy from extremely poor quality writing (okay, Soap was relatively good, but the rest give me a break!).

You'll have noticed by now that I used the word "if" a lot in this article, and that is because there are a lot of questions that need answering (I mean other than why did "The Love Boat" last for nine seasons?). Also remember in the last couple of paragraphs I assumed that these supposed extraterrestrials could travel at just under light speed, which isn't likely. I'm not saying it impossible, but the technological leap that would have had to be made is a little hard to swallow.


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