Jumping the Timestream: A Note from 07.20.2011

20 07 2012

I’m writing today one year into the future because I can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen in the next few hours.  (Strange, I realize, but I can’t just publicly ask my future self in a few hours due to contract obligations relating to the answer… so I have to send this far enough out to not cause any legal troubles.)

In short – I’ve got a phone meeting in a few hours that may result in my getting offered to participate in a TV show, and I have no idea what will happen and/or what I should do(!).  The show relates to my paper on xenoarchaeology – it triggered interest in a show on investigating suspected UFO crash sites from an archaeological perspective…  If there is an offer, accepting might stretch my scientific credibility – not to mention that my pregnant wife may object to my leaving to perform fieldwork for weeks at a time with a newborn at home.

What to do?  What to do?

So, future self: What happened?  What the heck happened?  What did you do?  Was whatever you decided to do a good idea?

Out of my mind with anticipation,

Ben

July 20, 2011.

July 20, 2011. 12:54pm.

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Hawking Space Exploration Paradox: Death or Enslavement

27 09 2010

Dr. Stephen Hawking. (Credit: Associated Press)

During the last six months, famed theoretical physicist and science oracle Dr. Stephen Hawking has proposed much to garner headlines.  (A suggestion that ‘universe creation’ may be a natural process comes to mind.)  However, when looking at the implications of his recent propositions, a hidden space exploration paradigm takes form.

It would seem that in Dr. Hawking’s best estimations, space exploration is inexorably linked to the struggle for humanity’s survival.  His astro-colonial challenge is framed between two opposing threats: The first is that if we do not learn to cooperate and start concerted space exploration and colonization, the human race will wipe itself out in two centuries; The second is that advanced alien life is certain to exist, and if we reveal ourselves to the extraterrestrial environment, such life will pose a threat to our civilization (a la War of the Worlds).

What does this mean?  Well, this might initially seem to imply a “damned if you don’t, damned if you do” paradox, which I mentioned as this post’s title.  However, when developed further, the propositions have a deeper implication: A golden path between the chasms on either side.

By assessing Dr. Hawking’s admittedly apocalyptic predictions in reverse, he essentially states that we’ll make it if we create a synergy of earnest, cooperative space exploration and diligent, even paranoid SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) reconnaissance.  In doing so, we engender the maturity of our civilization on Earth, develop resource and environmental security for our perpetual existence about the Sun, and cultivate an advanced awareness of our stellar neighborhood – an early warning system for potentially threateneing ETIs (extraterrestrial intellegiences).

So, it’s possible he’s really saying that we have a shot.

The first step in evading threats is cultivating an awareness of them.  In that light, maybe that’s the reason he’s come out with these statements lately – to help us find the razor’s edge between self-destruction and galactic naivety.

Just a thought.





Differences between SETI, Astrobiology, UFOlogy

17 08 2010

Based on some recent feedback, I’m tempted to pose a question to the cyberverse:

  • What differences do you see, if any, between SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), Astrobiology (study of locations and potential biochemistry of extraterrestrial life), and UFOlogy (study of UFOs)?

I ask this as a general point of discussion because some have expressed concern that working toward a preconceived methodology for xenoarchaeology, like I’ve been working on, will confuse Astrobiology, SETI, and the more pseudoscientific UFOlogy in the public mind.

So, what do you think?  Just how different is your perception of SETI, Astrobiology, and UFOlogy?  How legitimate a scientific pursuit are each?  How illegitimate?

Clearly, all three concepts are related.  Without Astrobiology, SETI and UFOlogy cannot logically exist.  UFOlogy implies “ETI,” but it makes some pretty incredible assumptions that in my mind remove it from the realm of hard science, or even speculative science, for that matter.

So, have at it.  Comments welcome.





Alien archeology – now a real science?

15 05 2010

Concept sketch of Mars xenoarchaeological site from movie Total Recall. Credit: Steve Burg

Well, I’ve done it.  Making good on a promise I made to myself while presenting a poster at the Society of American Archaeology conference in 2008, I recently submitted an article to the journal Space Policy outlining a framework for a science that doesn’t quite exist yet: Xenoarchaeology.

“Xeno” is Greek/Latin for “foreign” or “stranger.”

Seriously.  I drew from SETI protocols, interplanetary geological sample return guidelines, archaeology fundamentals, and historical examples to make a call for a proactive set of xenoarchaeological guidelines.  My argument?  -The moment that we find something we think might be the real deal on another planet is the wrong moment to try and figure out how to study it correctly and credibly.  And we’ve got spacecraft and landers everywhere these days.  -It’s only a matter of time until we do cross over something that makes us double-take.

To paraphrase my general points in the paper, an archeological mindset is particularly well-suited to analyzing a site of truly unknown character, but there are planetary science landmines a regular archaeologist would be completely unprepared to dodge.  Gravity, temperature, chemistry, and electromagnetic environment can all be (and likely are) very different on another world, which will affect essentially every property of an object.  On Earth we can take all of those things for granted – the strength and effectiveness of friction, for example.  On Mars?  We had to completely redesign the drill bits used on our Mars rovers simply because the effectiveness of a cutting edge on Mars is only half what it is here on Earth because the atmospheric pressure is so low, which is in turn because the gravity is 1/3 weaker.  See what I mean?

If it walks like an arrowhead, and it talks like an arrowhead… it might not actually be an arrowhead on Mars.

So, that’s my stab at taking a scientific discipline out of the realm of science fiction and elevating it to reality.  -The paper made it favorably through editorial review, and I am waiting to hear back on comments from the peer referees.

My ulterior motive?  I really do believe it’s only a matter of time until we find something – and if I center myself in the burgeoning discipline, when we do find something (if I don’t happen to be the one who stumbles across it, myself)… they’ll have to call me.

Fingers crossed.

(NOTE, 10/2010:  The paper was accepted and published!  Find it here.)

(NOTE, 05/2011: See the follow-up post on article responses here!)





Give it a rest, people: Voyager 2 spacecraft not hijacked by aliens

13 05 2010

NASA is having a hard time talking to the Voyager 2 probe.  It started in late April and has only gotten worse, with the latest transmission being quite garbled.  Now, I can understand a bit of fun, tounge-in-cheek speculation, but this “Aliens have hijacked Voyager 2!” thing has gotten way out of hand.  It’s as though someone has been subliminally beaming the plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture into everyone’s minds…

Voyager 6 spacecraft after being hijacked by aliens as seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Credit: Paramount

…and for the unwashed, the movie centers around a mysterious cloud of energy headed for Earth destroying everything in its path.  It is revealed in the final act of the film that the cloud is actually the probe Voyager 6, which according to future history was lost, and Kirk and crew learn that it was hijacked, reprogrammed, and empowered by aliens before being sent back.  Sound familiar?

No one (or should I say, nothing?) has “done” anything to the blasted spacecraft, people.  It’s getting old.  How many other 30-year-old computers do you know of that are still running perfectly? 

Yes, Hartwig Hausdorf (who first made the alien hijacking crack) is allowed his opinion.  Is it realistic?  Nope.  Let’s just hope this probe can be recovered… It’d be a pity to lose one of only two “eyes” we have moving out of the solar system for the first time.

Sheesh, I just wish real science got this much press.








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