Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Do Aliens Eat?

Dear Friends,
On July 24th,, 2024 the spacecraft Armstrong completed its more than billion mile, eight year journey to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, after looping around our Terran Moon and the planet Venus, thence threading its way through the asteroid belt beyond Mars. Once the robot made contact with Europa’s icy surface, the ship’s radio-thermal power generator (RTG) began to heat its exterior to 27ยบ C. Armstrong then melted it’s way to the briny, dark sea ten kilometers below. The descent into the enshrouded ocean took just less than two years.
Once there, Armstrong opened his eyes and tasted the enveloping waters and all that it contained. His ears activated, and he could hear to shrieks and whooping of the beasts that inhabit this new vista. Just over an hour later, by radio, scientists on Earth saw, tasted, and heard what Armstrong perceived.
On the floor of this ice-buried ocean little beasties that looked like earthly tube-worms by submerged volcanic vents wagged in the gloomy currents. They expelled soft flakes that smelled of sulfur. About them swam translucent, bioluminescent creatures that looked rather like our flounder. They flickered as though signaling each other with their light. Indeed, our cryptographers believe that what they have seen was akin to Morse Code or Semaphore. These critters were intelligent, or at least communicative with each other.
However intelligent, they were not immune to the predation of what our biologists term Wasps, that being their behavior. Their appearance, though, was more like a giant eel, but with a prehensile, many fingered tale and a gaping maw that contained teeth of a sort. Those teeth were, as well, agile. Apparently having no jaw, they masticated their pray by slowly grinding, massaging the gooey flesh with the action of their terrible incisors, then somehow absorbing the meal through their skin.
After 3.46 terran hours in service beneath Europa’s ocean, Armstrong had completed its mission, it’s communication systems failed. The cause of failure in not certain, but it is theorized that the Wasps actually have their stomachs on the outside of their body, and potent gastric juices fatally corroded both the high-gain and back-up antennas.
Yours in Scientific Enthusiasm,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who's That Knocking?

Dear Friends,
Stephen Hawking has cautioned us to stay clear of alien visitors, to not advertise our presence. They might be hunting for precious resources on rocky world rich with minerals and meat. the solution to Fermi’s Paradox may be that advanced civilizations have figured out that it is best to stay hid from their galactic neighbors.
But, what if we do get a visit? That’s unlikely, of course, given the vastness of even our observable backyard. More likely, we may get message in the form of modulated laser light in an appreciative response to an “I Love Lucy” episode from 1960. Or, the message may be in the form of a controlled implosion of star that radiates an SOS, sent from a species that can manage stellar mechanics but not solve their troubles with the little beasties that are eating all their methane.
Here on The Home Planet, our own species can’t even communicate with our Cetacean cousins, nor our closest kin, Great Apes. The creatures that we call pets, who live in our own homes, are a mystery to us. Just ask anybody who keeps a cat.
Hic Finis Est,

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes…

Dear Friends.

As ever, the next moment in history, or even the events of your walk to the park, remain uncertain. But, read this! Don't ever miss a chance to make a difference, if only by example.  As old Sam Clemens said, "The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes."

Res Ipsa Loquitur,


Monday, May 9, 2011

Look to The Skies!

Dear Friends,

By my lights, this Universe is a pretty good operational definition of a miracle. It's amazing that anything exists, really. That the Universe gave us eyes to see It dancing, to have the senses to taste Her perfume on the breeze that graces our tender hides, to hear those songs on the wind, to feel the shadow of one of Her clouds or the creatures that She made to fly… to know without looking that we are not alone in Creation and feel compelled to gaze to the heavens and imagine… I am not a religious person, but  I do believe that somehow this place got put together pretty well just exactly perfect.

Check out this video for a preview of a real good show coming up in about ten days. You'll have to get up early (or stay up late) but if Nature cooperates and the sky is clear, it will be worth it. With nothing more than your outstretched arm and a thumbs up, you will see celestial mechanics in action and get a fresh perspective on where you live.

Res Ipsa Loquitur,


An image of Jupiter. The dark spot is the shadow of Europa, a small world that may well harbor an ocean below miles of ice. In that ocean, may be life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

This is how it's done…

Dear Friends,

The guy in the picture below is a fellow named Ed White. One day in June of 1965, when I was just nine years old, he hauled his butt out of a perfectly fine space ship to take a "stroll" over the Home Planet. He was traveling at about 17,000 miles an hour, and all the while falling but not landing. That is the definition of being in orbit.

There were a few concerns about putting even a steely-eyed missile man in this situation. A person might reasonably be expected to puke up his lunch of freeze-dried goop in his helmet under, or above the planet that appeared to speed along below, or above, his feet. That would be bad for the steely-eyed missile man stuck inside a pressurized helmet.

There was also some concern about getting him back into that perfectly fine space ship. His protective suit was inflated. He had barely an inch of room to squeeze himself back into the craft's hatch… if he survived his little "walk-about" one-hundred and sixty miles above where his feet were designed to live. Oh, and if his buddy on the ship couldn't yank his corpse back into the space ship, they would both be former-astronauts. You can't land a space ship with one door open and a dead guy flopping around in the incinerating breeze of reentry.

Well, Ed got back home okay. His buddy, Jim McDivitt and he came down to earth, but White would die a few years later, on the Terra Firma. He was getting a new space ship ready, and it was to fly to the Moon. Things went horribly awry. Three courageous men perished due to a couple of errors in engineering a vehicle designed to take a Human to the heavens on top of a fire breathing monster that had the power of an atom bomb. Whoops!

Anyhow, this picture shows how we're going to deliver on the aspiration that pretty much any kid who has looked to the sky has likely felt. That would be most of us, wouldn't it?

Res Ipsa Loquitor,


Ad Astra, Edwin White II.