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We had our 5th MetaQuizzical Cafe last Sunday with Eric Korpela, project scientist with the SETI@Home project. The name of the program: "Do we live in a friendly universe?". He came with his wife--what a lovely gregarious couple! They smiled the whole time. I noticed on his resume that he likes to go bass fishing. Since we're both from the Midwest, we commiserated about the lack of good bass fishing in California. You need warm water lakes and streams. In CA most lakes are too chilly for bass.
So the question is: "Is the universe too chilly for other technological life?" He says "no", but that you gotta know where to fish! He thinks advanced life is still rare in such a vast place. It made me reflect that when the population goes down in a given area, people start to acknowledge one another, to say hello, share pleasantries and such. Imagine how amazing it would be to run into anyone 'out there'! I think the 'hello' would be more sincere and radical than anyone can imagine. I also think that it's the possibility of this first 'hello' that keeps these SETI folks going. Even though they haven't found concrete evidence yet they remain upbeat, and optimistic. Never stop looking I say!
I long for the patient, mentoring aliens in Arthur C. Clark's book "Childhood's End". A highly ethical species that would banish aggression and replace it with love and aesthetic pursuits. They'd sow the atmosphere with a chemical that would reduce our ego, open our hearts, and clear our minds. Now that's an alien conquest I could get behind!
As an intro to the topic, "Do we live in a friendly universe", I sang a song from the "yes" perspective and another from the "no" perspectives. First, I took the "friendly" perspective with a new song titled "Does Love Exist on Other Worlds" that shares Carl Sagan's view that any advanced alien contact would be with a loving species that has worked out all their nasty behavior problems long ago. Here are the lyrics. The audience sang beautifully along with this new ballad.
Next we portrayed the scary side evoking Stephen Hawkings recent warnings about possible trouble with alien contact: 'The Alien Immigrant Song' which I wrote as a parody of 'The Immigrant Song' by Led Zepplin. In the song our world is listed on an intergalactic 'SpaceBook' page as up for 'sale' due to an eminent eco-system collapse. The hostile planet 'Rattatuk' buys the deed and then well . . . here are the lyrics. (The ending should be fun for you Douglas Adams fans.) The audience, especially the women, sounded great on the 'Ah-Ah-Ahhhhh Ahhhh!!
Eric's presentation was quite thought-provoking and had a running joke in it. Throughout history the main problem for scientists not being able to continue their projects is....ta daaa....FUNDING! So maybe the real reason we've can't call the aliens is we can't afford to pay the phone bill!