Why HD 164595 may put $670 trillion of derivatives into the shade as a genuine news item
94 light years away – in a 3D Universe where Distance and Time are meaningless anyway – a signal has been detected aimed (it seems likely) at us. You can read all today’s Earthly news towards the end of this post: but I urge you to use the Cosmic news as a meter of measurement before doing so.
Despite the headline, I start this post with some news from the last few days. It may be something, it’s probably nothing, but the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has just announced the reception of what appears to be an intelligent signal from deep space…but not that deep.
‘Not far away’ in Space-speak is 94 light years….so multiply 94 by the number of seconds in a year by 186,000 and that’s the number of miles away it is. If you put every Boris Johnson bendy-bus end to end to see how far it got you to the star, London traffic would move a whole lot quicker, but your gallant attempt would fail due to a severe lack of buses, and the difficulty of steering or even starting a bendy bus in a vacuum. To you and me, it’s a long, long way away, but to astronomers and SETI pointy-heads, it’s just around the corner.
The star is called HD 164595. So far, the only planet detected spinning round it (a similar size to our sun) is of Neptune size – but far too close to its star to support life as we know it, Jim. Given the gravity and heat involved, a life form on this monster would be about 350 feet tall and made of asbestos. You don’t even want to think about how it might reproduce, but it would be very noisy….even if the woman was faking. The signal is almost certainly not coming from Neptune’s long-lost twin.
However, detecting planets in a solar system is an incredibly complex process, roughly akin to searching for the biggest grain of sand on a beach. You monitor the star constantly, and if – in a sequence that makes sense orbitally – at regular intervals the light emitted by the star reduces by one millionth of one per cent (I’m not exaggerating for once) then you can be sure that not only is an orbiting planet crossing the star, you can calculate exactly how big it is. How they work out how far the planet is from the star is something I tried to read about once and it just made my head hurt. But trust me, they can.
The point is, HD 164595 has not as yet been scanned exhaustively for the presence of other much smaller planets. You can be sure, in the light of this SETI discovery, that search will now be stepped up several gears.
Oddly enough, the fact that makes it almost certain this is an intelligent signal is its sheer strength: based on it’s characteristics, the senders would have to generate about 100 billion billion watts of energy to blast it out in all directions. Further, it would require more than 1 trillion watts if they beamed it towards Earth – a total hundreds of times more than all the sunlight falling on Earth.
The extrapolation, therefore, is that if it was sent by aliens, their ability to harness and store solar energy is way ahead of anything we can even envisage. This is, if it exists, a civilisation close to my heart, because I decided nearly forty-five years ago that this is what the human occupants of planet Earth should be focused on achieving. Dolphins lack the fingers to work calculators, so you can’t blame them for not taking an interest. Listen, if I could frolic about in the waters off Santa Monica boulevard every day, I wouldn’t give a crap about any of this either. Other even more successful species not visible to the naked eye are fully occupied trying to kill us off, so they too are excused duties on the Big Energy Project.
Now of course, it could be that a reaction between the rays of HD 164595 and something unspeakably nasty on Neptune2 has produced an energy burst so enormous, it has sent out the intra-galactic equivalent of a random laser beam….and this just happens to have made a beeline for our solar system.
However, the SETI scientists involved in this incident say they don’t think the signal is random. For the answer on why they think that, we’ll have to wait for the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) taking place during September in Guadalajara, Mexico – where one of the team members will be presenting a paper on their findings.
But let’s just assume for now that we’ve discovered extra-terrestrial life. Why is this important?
Space and its exploration have fascinated me since I began reading about Dan Dare pilot of the Future in the Eagle comic aged seven. Back then, I mainly liked the idea of using the skills of lantern-jawed Dan to protect Earthlings from reptilian aliens like the Treens, and their wicked leader the Mekon – 1956 winner of the William Hague lookalike contest.
But then came long trousers and a childish form of adulthood called the advertising business. And then becoming more of a fulltime writer colliding with the nastier elements of Homo sapiens. This gave me depressive problems, which in turn led to undergoing cognitive behaviour therapy, empowering my left-brain, flirting with secular Buddhism, and kindling an interest in what I call the Confluence of Knowledge or the idea in Buddha-speak that “separation is an illusion – all things are connected”.
If you think that sort of stuff just more wacky pants from the folks who want to levitate the Albert Hall, think again. Most serious physicists now accept that separation is indeed an illusion created by our limited brains. 3,000 years ago, the Lord Buddha also asserted that Time is an illusion. Just over 100 years ago, Albrecht Einstein proved him right.
We don’t know how he did it, but obviously Budders was onto something way before radio telescopes and relativity theory came along. What we do know, however, is Einstein predicted that nothing could travel faster than light, and electrons billions of light years apart acted in unison because they were the same electron. Every last iota of serious research since his death has shown this very bright Jewish boy to be absolutely right. Which is a lot better than being obsoletely wrong.
Or in short, time and separation (Space) are illusions. Something in turn that led John Lennon to write in the song Strawberry Fields Forever:
Nothing is real, there’s nothing to get hung up on
The mysteries of Time, Space, life elsewhere in the Universe, light-speed, identical electrons “in two places at once” and the learnings of extra-terrestrial species are important because studying them raises our game.
Let me exemplify what I mean via the medium of zero-pc and a blunt attack upon ideological and/or religious drivel.
Somewhere on the outskirts of Tehran, a Muslim woman of independent mind decides to make a point about her gender’s worth by walking about with skirts way above what the local Mullahs deem seemly.
That evening, there is an earthquake in which more than 3,000 Iranians die.
The Mullahs decree that Ms Shortskirt caused this, and so to appease Allah there must be a mass stoning to death of 3,000 women to atone for the crime.
Lots of dumbassed, self-obsessed Islamic blokes nod in what they hope is a meaningful manner, and go along with this Stone Age reasoning.
Now I am here to tell you, it is impossible to read about the principles of Einsteinian physics, the nature of unseparated physicality and the illusion of Time while still buying into that kind of misogynist shit.
Before the threads, emails and tweets of hate start pouring in about my alleged Islamophobia, read on. I’m a long way from finished just yet.
Science applied to the nature of 3-dimensional being also makes the crimes of the Crusader fanatics inexcusable. It behoves us to reject the perverted Christianity of both the Spanish Inquisition and the mass slaughter of Irish Catholics by the Cromwellian forces.
It condemns every Jihadist, every Nazi, every Stalinist and every radical Zionist.
It reduces the ideas of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Owen Smith and Lord Mandelson to those emanating from the brains of intellectual minnows. It pours scorn on them for purging Labour of Corbyn supporters, reserving any scorn left over for nutters who want “to gouge Blair’s eyes out and set him on fire”.
It renders, in fact, all the parochial obsessions of Homo sapiens’ Right Cortex to the level of irrelevant, risible superstition.
So here is the news:
- Trump pledges to deport a million illegal US immigrants during his first day in Office
Theresa May accuses BMA of ‘playing politics’ after union announces fresh wave of junior doctor strikes
Tony Blair says Britain can still avoid Brexit and the public have the right to change their minds
More than 2,000 youngsters reported to the police for ‘sexting’
Revealed: How Theresa May nearly scuppered Strictly Come Dancing’s results show by voting to keep ban on dancing on Sundays
- Wall Street strategists are warning of an end to the unusual calm that’s characterized markets in August, advising clients to go long volatility, citing, in part, the prospect of rising cross-asset correlations.
And my particular favourite from today’s old media:
This item (a) contradicts the view of 260 economists pre-Brexit while (b) calling a bounce-back far too early to be taken seriously after (c) having run three hours ago as ‘FTSE falls back’.
Time is so obviously an illusion – and what happened then so obviously in transition towards what’s happening now – our culture’s compulsive news disorder is laid bare for anyone to examine.
Here’s the moral of this wide-ranging story: any time you imagine you are significant – or this and that ‘breaking’ news is important – think first of all about SETI, dolphins, bacilli, Star No HD 164595, storing a trillion watts to send a signal through space, the inexplicable insights of Buddha, the genius of Einstein and the graphene-thickness of ‘civilisation’ that separates us from cow-munching alligators.
Not only will it give what’s happening a sobering perspective. It just might instill in the human psyche a much-needed brain synapse called humility.