Friday, November 10, 2006

Keep those aliens sweet - offer them freebies !

What you see on the right is an item on today's Sky News entitled "Warning of Alien Attack".
Product of an overactive imagination ? Someone been watching too many Steven Spielberg movies ?
It's for you to read the article and make up your own minds .

The only reservation I have about the idea of furtive alien visitors is this: having come this far - it's a minimum of 4.3 light years distance from the nearest star outside our Solar system, which may or may not have habitable planets - why are they being so damn coy ? Why all the slowness in coming forward ? Do we really frighten them that much ? Oh .... yes, thanks for reminding me. Silly of me to have asked. Maybe they have seen the kind of earthlings we have in charge - in London and Washington DC. Nuff said.

In fact, the topic of aliens and astronomy came up on The Telegraph's Ben Fenton blog last August. Maybe you saw it. Did you share my irritation at the descent into casuistry, or the mixing up of astronomy ( a science) with astrology ( superstition, masquerading as astronomy) ? His blog attracted a mere 5 comments. Mine was one of them, reproduced below, with three graphics lifted off the Internet to illustrate some technical points, and maybe add a touch of colour. However, if the single reply is anything to go by, then that Mr. Pope in the Sky article is going to have his work cut out convincing the sceptics. (He recently retired as the Government's UFO advisor).

Welcome ET
Personally I prefer to take my astronomy neat. Astrology for me belongs somewhere else, like the inside back page of the newspaper. The purpose of this post is actually quite serious: it's to put into the public domain, as they say, an idea that came to me some time ago, but for which there's been no obvious forum to date.

It's to do with Extra-Terrestrials (ETs): it's not about whether they exist (of that I am pretty certain), but whether they are nearby, watching us, or even landing their craft surreptitiously at the dead of night. Suppose they were hovering, out of sight, on the edge of the Solar System, say, watching us, but unsure about what kind of reception they would receive if they came in for a closer look. Is there any way in which we Earthlings could, as it were, lay out a welcome mat, that would reassure those shy little folk ? (If they were hostile, we would probably know about it by now).Here's my solution. I doubt if you've read it elsewhere, since I'm not knowingly a plagiariser, so let me know if you have.

You recall, no doubt, the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements from school. It's that arrangement of the 100 or so elements into a grid, in order of increasing complexity, with vertical Groups, and horizontal Periods.
The Periodic Table should be common knowledge for intelligent life throughout the Universe. School kids on the planet Zog, say in the Crab Nebula, should have it on the inside cover of their chemistry textbooks, same as ours. Here's the idea. On the far side of the Moon, always turned away from us, and thus facing deep space, we (mankind) would mark out a giant Periodic Table, using, say, reflective aluminium foil that would shine when the Sun was in the right position. The grid would probably have to be hundreds of miles in width and height, so as to be visible through the telescopes of any passing alien spaceship. But aluminium foil is cheap and light. Now, here's the key feature. At the centre of each of the 100 or so grid-squares there would be a landing pad, on which would be placed a supply of the element appropriate for that position. It's there as a free gift, as a come-on, to the aliens ! So they will be hugely grateful and we hope favourably disposed to us, given this unexpected opportunity to re-stock on several key elements ( which will probably be in short supply, given they have made a long interstellar voyage of several light-years) .

Still with me ? Now the next step is to advertise the existence of those elements, again in a way that would be universally understood . Here's how it could be can be done. Most elements produce a distinctive colour or spectrum in an electric discharge tube. Sodium is orange-yellow, for example (as in street lighting), copper is blue-green, potassium is lilac etc. So on each of the platforms one places a bright lamp, visible from afar, powered from nuclear or solar cells, which corresponds to the appropriate element for that position in the Periodic Table.

Glowing krypton

The aliens would have to be pretty stupid not to realise what they were looking at, and that it represented a kind of come-on. If they did not, then it's unlikely they would have got so close to our Solar system. Obviously it's for the aliens to decide if it's a friendly gesture on our part, or a trap. I won't try to guess how they would do that, given that their technology, evolved brain power etc, would almost certainly be way ahead of our own.

The next thing is to include sensors that would detect any outside interest, so to speak. Well, that's straightforward enough. It would require a network of strategically-placed TV cameras, probably needing one or more dedicated relay satellites, that could transmit signals back to Earth from the far side of the Moon. As soon as anyone, or anything, helps themselves, a bell would ring back on Earth !Would not the prospect of freebies, including the heavier elements such as gold, platinum, uranium etc - ones that we know are rare throughout the Universe - be too much for our voyagers to resist ? Would they not come in for a closer look, or better still make a trolley dash round our Periodic Table, proving once and for all their existence to us ?

But if you are a sceptic, as I am, about ETs being close at hand, consider the converse. Suppose years went by with no interest shown. Would that not put a damper on some of the wilder speculation about aliens being among us already, abducting us, or at any rate hovering nearby, keeping us under observation ? But if, one day, some passing aliens did spot our goodies, and avail themselves, then we would have got off to a good start. They would feel they had been expected, so to speak, and that Earth's welcome mat was out. At least that might spare us from instant vaporisation with their zeta weapons !

Colin Berry at 17 Aug 2006 16:00


Reply: Close encounters of the ...

Spooky! I was sceptical at first but now I can say I have witnessed an alien thought form at only one remove. How many more are there hidden behind harmless looking names such as Colin? To think that in my youth I laughed at UFO theory.

Ped at 17 Aug 2006 18:27

Thanks mate. You make it all worthwhile !

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