Monday, December 6, 2010

Were Earth's Early Visitors Here Just To Visit?

It appears that the end-of-the-world theorists have settled on a definite date. In roughly two years and some change our mother planet is planning to cash in her chips. Mature, rational sounding people stand around over cocktails proclaiming December 21st 2012 as not only the probable end of our world, but the end of mankind as well. I’m thinking there must be something to this. After all, solid citizens are writing books and making movies about it. People are actually going on talk shows in front of millions of viewers, looking the camera in the eye and saying the end of the world will come just before Christmas 2012. Yep, there’s no doubt about it. We’re doomed.

First of all, scheduling the end of world before Christmas is just rude, even if we do get two years notice. That should be plenty of time to pack our bags at least. But, wait a minute, that’s right – we have no place else to go! Now I’m starting to feel a little verklemmt. But kidding aside for just a moment, we’ll get back to it, why do mature adults suddenly think they have the date for oblivion figured out? A little research points to a number of cryptic passages from ancient religious texts and even the Mayan Long Calendar, as clear evidence.

On a hunch, I rolled my iPhone calendar forward to the end and discovered a new date mysteriously lurking within this top-of-the-line silicon oracle I religiously rely on for all my important future appointments. There it was: December 31st, 2068. As I stared at the unblinking digital characters ominously displayed there, it occurred to me that maybe the Mayans just got tired of chiseling new days and months into stone. I mean it took me almost a whole minute to hold down the arrow key and scroll my calendar all the way to the end. I could only imagine sweaty stone cutters toiling away until their little fingers were practically worn to the bone. Somebody must have eventually piped up with the idea that several thousand years into the future should be enough to work with. That’s on the big clunky Long Calendar. I’m thinking they also probably had a more manageable Short Calendar they could pull out of their wallets, pouches, togas (whatever) that were a little handier for penciling in important human sacrifices and so forth.

Just imagine for a moment if I happened to stumble off some cliff out in the desert by mistake (probably looking down texting), of course gripping my iPhone tightly above my head to prevent cracking the screen when I hit (because Apple still doesn’t see fit to provide a replacement insurance plan). Some nomadic people might happen along and discover my hand sticking out of the sand there in the future still clutching my iPhone. They too might read something ominous into that last date on my calendar if they could manage to decode the interface and of course assuming the battery lasted more than 20 minutes much less years.

But seriously, the bigger issue is that we really can’t know for sure when the Earth might be hit by a planet-buster comet, or our population wiped out by a plague of Avian flu. We do know the Sun won’t last forever, although we still have a few million years left we’re told. There's a relief. I definitely want to be around to spend all that Social Security money I paid into! But what about a sudden unforeseen gamma-ray burst from a near star system super nova that fries our atmosphere? Of course we could always manage to wipe the place out all by ourselves with nukes, or greenhouse gases, poison the water supply, or god forbid run out of landfills making such a stink nobody would want to live here anymore.

But where else can we go? There are no other habitable planets in our solar system so we’ve got to look outside the neighborhood. Actually, good news! NASA’s just found a new planet for us they named Gliese 581. They’ve been thinking all this through apparently and with gobs of tax payer money they embarked some years ago on the Planet Quest Project to find us another home when Earth croaks. Not only that, they think this may be only one of thousands they can find with a little finer telescope tuning; so they can even see longer distances. Oh that’s the bad news by the way. Gliese 581 (they need a better writer who can come up with some homier names for these things don’t you think?) is over 20 light years away.

For those of you struggling to do the math on your fingers already, it would take us way more than twenty 20 years to get there because currently our fastest spaceship is not much of a light-speedster; more like a light-scooter actually. So, at present we would probably need more than 2,000 years to get there. Not to mention another 100 years just to get packed and ready to go. Oh yeah, we need to build some pretty big ships too. And we’ll need room for a lot of luggage.

Like Noah, we’ll probably want to bring a few pets and some livestock along too. One thing is sure, all those endangered species like Gnat Catchers and Horny Toad Owls (whatever) would be the first ones to get the boot. If they can’t survive on a whole planet they damn sure won’t make it on the trip to a new star system crammed into little cages. And Grandma/Grandpa, basically anybody over 35 probably – boot! We’ll need good livestock for people, not just animals to use for bearing progeny during the trip.

This whole train of thought about finding new planets so that humans can outlive their cradle, in this case Earth, got me thinking more deeply about the possibility that we may have already done this once before. Well there’s Noah of course and the ark he had to build to save people from the flood. Boy, talk about your discrimination. He probably had to make some pretty tough choices about who got to go and who had to swim. Of course Mrs. Moses got a pass. You think there wasn’t some payola going on there to get the last tickets on that boat?

This train of thought triggered some research on my part and it wasn’t long before I started digging into all the “Ancient Astronaut” theories and pre-Earth history you find out on the Internet pretty easily. Even the History Channel is running a series now entitled: "Ancient Aliens". Wow! And I always thought the history channel was just about the Wild West and WWII documentaries. On the other hand: Ice Road Truckers? What the heck is that all about? Nevertheless, their series did raise a lot of questions, didn’t provide many real answers, but did get me to seriously wonder if Earth might not possibly be the lifeboat some other extraterrestrial race may have discovered through their own long range telescopes. It’s at least conceivable that if their planet went flat-line at some point, they may have made the trek to Earth to resettle. This of course assumes:

1. Extraterrestrials even exist

2. That extraterrestrials somehow managed to discover Earth orbiting our sun among hundreds of millions of other stars in our galaxy alone

3. They somehow managed to figure out trans-light speed so they could get here without spending thousands of years en route - why'd they have to bring those Gnat Catchers with them?

I’m sure I could find a few more of these improbabilities to list out. But you get the idea. Still, there may be something there to give us pause for careful consideration. At the very least, consider this: if we can find them, i.e. NASA’s Planet Quest successes of late, then why couldn’t they find us? Especially when you consider that many planets we will discover are no doubt much older than Earth. Our civilization might still be in diapers compared to their historic timeline elsewhere. It certainly makes you wonder, hmm?

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