smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

First Contact

It was in 2015 when I first heard extra-terrestrials. I was fiddling around with the Morgan Foundation’s radio telescope at around 10:30 am, just before I was supposed to clock out after yet another night of fruitless listening. At first I thought it was just background noise. Then, I thought I was just feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. When the hiss got stronger, when the pattern emerging out of the white noise became too obvious, that was when I hit the button.

The panic button, we called it, even though it wasn’t even a button and it wasn’t panic that was supposed to trigger it. When I flipped that toggle, three things happened all at once. The computers locked on to whatever frequency I was listening to at that time and began recording everything; a text message was sent on a private network to Mr. Willard Morgan’s cellphone; and telemetry was activated in the main House where Mr. Morgan could monitor the frequency.

At that time, I didn’t know that a fourth thing happened when I flipped the panic button. A packet of information was fired off to the MorComm satellite. The packet contained instructions for the satellite to fry all other satellites by sending out an electromagnetic pulse. The MorComm sat itself would jettison a virgin satellite that would commence operation almost instantaneously after the emp went off. Mr. Morgan’s exclusivity guarantee. It was a good thing I didn’t know that, or I would have not hit the button fearing a false alarm.

But as things turned out, it wasn’t a false alarm.

Three days later, while the world media still bleated about mysteriously downed satellites, the Morgan Foundation had scrambled it’s steroid-pumped version of the Hubble and within a few hours, we were getting clear pictures of the source of the signal. An asteroid that would, in six weeks, pass about 2 lunar distances from the earth.

Five weeks later, the rest of the world found out about the signal through the tabs. Everyone ignored the blaring headlines, just like they ignored the stories about the image of Elvis being found on a granola bar. The US government didn’t ignore the story exactly, but it wasn’t in any position to do anything about it, so it kept quiet. The Morgan Foundation, however, had launched a piggy-backer aimed at the incoming asteroid.

When the piggy backer hit the asteroid a week later, we realized it wasn’t a rock at all but a derelict.

Over the next few months, as the derelict receded into the distance the piggy-back sent back tons of information. We learned that the signal I had found was scatter from course correction instructions sent to the derelict to prevent it from slamming into the moon. It was an automated instruction and it scared the shit out of everyone at Morgan. Everyone, that is, except Morgan himself.

He called it first contact and finally told the United Nations about it. His speech before the General Assembly was something to behold.

First, he told the story of how I had discovered the signal. Then he apologized for the emp, calling it an act of necessary vandalism and offering to pay for all costs. And before the leaders of the world had time to harrumph, he hit them square between the eyes with the powerpoint presentation of the millenium. Al Gore must have wept with envy.

He gave free and full access to Morgan databases to all governments, inviting them to verify our results. For awhile after that, outrage caught up with the rest of the world and sanctions were heaped on the Morgan Foundation. But when the results were eventually verified, the sanctions were quietly lifted. No one could forget Morgan’s closing statement at the General Assembly: “We have found them. It is only a matter of time before they find us.”

Three months after that revelation, the General Assembly convened again, and in an unprecedented move, several regional groups – including the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Countries – coalesced to form the Eurasian Union. The US was invited, but Washington declined. It had its own plans.

Fearing further reprisals, the Morgan Foundation pulled out all its interests in the continental US and relocated to the Hague. The EAU was ecstatic. The US condemned Morgan and, while still wondering how it had been so neatly outmaneuvered, stripped him of his citizenship.

The realignment of the global power structure gave rise to a new space race. 15 years later, the EAU launched its first space station: Jericho. Six months later, the US space station was commissioned. It was named the Rubicon. And everyone settled down for the long wait.

– The Long Wait: The Memoirs of Jonah Erskine

Filed under: Rong-Nu, science, space, stories, , , , ,

Church accepts ET

There’s a line in a David Brin Uplift novel that goes something like: for me, the term ET has always carried the unfortunate implication that someone, somewhere is going to be eaten.

I remembered this quote when I came across this article about how the Vatican has accepted the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrials – ET – and how that possibility doesn’t contradict religion.

Well of course, it doesn’t. At least not unless you’re a Bible-thumping, hardcore fundamentalist and literal creationist. Another article on the same topic quotes the Vatican astronomer as saying that ruling out ET’s would mean “putting limits” on God’s creative freedom. One of Brin’s characters, Helena Alvarez – again from the Uplift Trilogy of David Brin – says much the same thing when she first sees alien lifeforms feeding off the sun’s electromagnetic fields. She says: “apparently, the Creator accepts very few limits to his imagination” … or something like that.

Enough quotes.

I totally agree with this latest pronouncement from the Vatican – despite the irony of it, this being the same religion that once almost burned Galileo. So I guess Carl Sagan’s “Contact” was right. Anyone who goes to meet aliens for the first time as a representative of humanity should believe in God. In fact, I kinda think that the idea of a Supreme Being or Deity might well turn out to be universal and that aliens will have their own gods too.

Filed under: musings, new age, religion, science, space, , ,

Countdown

NASA’s getting set to launch Endeavour on Tuesday (Wednesday here, I think). I tried to get the countdown clock to show here, but since it’s directly connected to Kennedy – and the applet is in beta – I don’t think that’s possible yet. So, instead, just click on this to see the live countdown, and feast your eyes on this lovely lovely pic. So darn science fiction-y… i am McLoving it!!!

061211_iod_sts116_lnch_04.jpg

Filed under: science, space, , ,

TU24 part deux

It came, it was seen, and now it’s gone. No auroras, no firestorms. No shit.

And that grainy picture is really all that we have left of good ole TU24. That, and the reminder that the intartubes truly has given uninformed opinion a new relevance it doesn’t deserve.

Filed under: musings, science, space, , , ,

TU24

Such an innocent sounding name.

2007-TU24 is a comet that has been classified as a ‘potentially hazardous asteroid.’ It’s not gonna hit the earth, but it’s going to come close enough (1.4 lunar distances, actually – which means it’ll be just outside the orbit of the moon), that a cottage industry of doomsayers has sprung up around it since it was discovered 3 months ago.

The majority of doom-gloom comes from the fact that TU24 will be going through the earth’s magnetosphere. If the thing has a negative charge, then there is a possibility that we will experience electromagnetic interference effects. These can range from the harmless and heart-achingly beautiful aurora, to more spectacularly damaging events like firestorms. Most doomsayers point to to Tunguska, a hundred years ago, where a much smaller rock passed through the earth’s magnetosphere too and flattened a forest more than 800 miles square.

Oh well. Should I be kissing my genomes goodbye, just in case?

I really don’t know. Sitting at my computer at 7.22 am, looking out the window and hearing the birds singing, it doesn’t seem like a day to die. Not from an asteroid on a drive-by shooting anyway. And besides, the sci-fi geek in me can’t help but be giddy. The biggest regret I have at this point is that they didn’t discover this asteroid sooner. I figure with about a year’s lead time, NASA or ESA or the Japanese could have cobbled together a piggy-back rider so that we can find out where asteroids go on their days off.

So tonight, I’ma-gonna go up to Prayer Mountain – Antipolo for you uninitiated virgins – and set-up my trusty spy-scope and look for this bad boy. I’m prolly not gonna see anything, but what the hey? If you wanna kiss the sky, you better learn how to kneel.

Filed under: science, space, , , ,

Space Junk

As I was writing the title of this post, I had a flash: a chinese junk (like you see in old pictures of Victoria Bay in Hong Kong) done up in science fiction style. The Captain of the space junk is an ethnic Han chinese named Kuang-Ning Bjornsdottir. The junk is called Rong-nu, and it is a privateer. It has a 15 man crew composed of men and women of various nationalities … and species.

ah, but what the heck. This isn’t story time. The space junk in the title refers to yet another satellite that’s about to fall to earth. Chicken Little’s nightmare come true. Most space junk burns off in the atmosphere, and the last one that punched through still relatively large was Skylab – waaaaay before my time. But, the damned thing caused enough worry around the world that even now, the name exists in Filipino pop-culture. More specifically in Mindanao where Skylab refers to a unique arrangement of passengers on a motorcycle.

Getting back to space junk, it’s actually kinda surprising that stuff falling from the sky doesn’t make the news more often. Consider this pic:

Every speck in that earth-dandruff is a piece of debris floating around in space. Kinda gives new meaning to the term space-filler, eh?

Filed under: international, pop-culture, science, space, , ,