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Proof of Life
It won’t be long now. If you have been waiting for proof that life — perhaps even intelligent life — exists elsewhere in the universe, your patience may soon be rewarded.

You probably heard all the hubbub about finding running water on Mars. That’s still not the proof we’re waiting for, but the discovery of water puts us very close to the last step in our quest: direct physical evidence. There is even a possibility that we’ll find confirmation of the theory that life here on Earth originated on Mars. Some believe that an ancient asteroid hit Mars eons ago and spattered some of its native protoplasm as far away as Earth. Those seeds eventually took root here, and voila! We’re all Martians.

There is some other news from space as well, from far beyond our solar system. The possibilities around this story are even more exciting than finding a few single-cell Martian relatives. KIC 8462852, a distant star not even visible to the naked eye, has recently been confounding astronomers using the Kepler Space Telescope. Since 2009, they’ve been scanning that small patch of the heavens that includes this star, looking for any unusual occultations. Occultations are what happen when objects pass between the viewer and another object, causing dips and peaks in the light coming from the second object. A solar eclipse is a classic example of occultation, with the moon getting in the way of (occulting) our view of the sun.

KIC 8462852, it seems, is a kaleidoscope of whacky occultation. The variations in dimming are wildly irregular. The jumps in light intensity are random, indicating complex subtleties in the sizes and orbital inclinations of whatever objects are blocking the star’s light. There’s a lot going on around KIC 8462852, in other words, but no one can figure out exactly what it is.

A number of explanations for these anomalies have been suggested, and most are rooted in the normal activities of heavenly bodies: asteroid debris, a young star still in the throes of birth, a cosmic collision. Scientists, however, have dismissed all of these possibilities as “implausible” (not to mention boring).

Also included on that list of implausible causes is one non-boring candidate: little green men. Under this theory, some highly developed alien race is moving big objects around in the space adjacent to KIC 8462852 — really big objects, that is, structures that could produce those wild occultations. One such structure, for instance, might be a Dyson Sphere. A Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical, titanic globe built around a star and lined with solar panels. Any super alien race worth its salt would need something like it as a source of renewable energy. Perhaps, it is suggested, the odd light variations we see are evidence of the ongoing construction of such a globe.

I do like the idea of alien races out there. It’s exciting to imagine what forms such life might take and what their civilizations might look like. I do want to be clear, however, that as much as I hope that these little green men exist, I do not hope to meet one. Ever. Like Stephen Hawking, I am not convinced that extraterrestrials would be as adorable and non-threatening as the star of E.T. Stephen Spielberg would have us believe that creatures who are that intelligent (smart enough to get here) must be filled with love and an overwhelming reverence for life. Maybe, but let me just say that I have known some really smart people who turned out to be complete assholes.

Fortunately, neither of these stories poses a threat of alien contact. At this point, we’re probably not going to find anything still living on Mars, and even if we did, it’s not likely to be a threat to human civilization. Furthermore, let me point out that KIC 8462852 is 1480 light years from Earth. In other words, if high-tech aliens built a Dyson Sphere or some other huge thingamajig in their immediate space, they did it 1480 years ago, and we are just now seeing it happen. That’s how long it has taken for those the puzzling light gyrations to travel to Earth. Those aliens have, no doubt, long since blown themselves to oblivion.

We can feel free, then, to let our excitement run wild about these discoveries. If we find little green men on Mars, they will be long dead. If we learn that there were aliens around KIC 8462852 1480 years ago, they’d have to do the impossible (travel faster than the speed of light) to get here any time soon. So we’re probably safe. Unless…

Unless, like E.T., they figured out how to do the impossible. And how to avoid blowing themselves up. And cared enough to pay us a visit. Come to think of it, maybe we should be on the safe side and not talk to any strangers.
Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon