Good darts

The switch has been thrown on a telescope specifically designed to seek out alien life. Funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the finished array will have 350 six-metre antennas and will be one of the world’s largest. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) will be able to sweep more than one million star systems for radio signals generated by intelligent beings.
Its creators hope it will help spot definite signs of alien life by 2025.
“For Seti, the ATA’s technical capabilities exponentially increase our ability to search for intelligent signals, and may lead to the discovery of thinking beings elsewhere in the Universe,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Seti Institute.”

Down at my local, ‘The Slug and Philosopher’ there was a different opinion.
“It could be that our friend Mr Allen has wasted his money with this one,” said Wayne, captain of our darts team. “Although wiv the more powerful equipment we can pick up signals from a wider and deeper section of the universe, that’s not the factor that will prevent us chatting with aliens.”

“Go on, Wayne.” I encouraged him.
“Yeah, yer main problem with alien contact is not yer first three dimensions but it’s yer dimension of time. Until man masters time and distance you can kiss those aliens’ butts goodbye.”

“What do you mean, Wayne?”
“To have two way communications with distant or near life forms you have to co-exist in the same time frame. What’s more both sets have to have reached an advanced technological state. If you live in different times then the best you can hope for is to pick up the historic signals of a long dead civilisation.”

“Like one day little green guys will pick up Eastenders?”
“Yeah, and they’ll be glad our civilisation died out, but imagine that the life of the universe is the double ring around the edge of a dartboard, circular and vast, and that the life of our civilisation is a dart hole in double one. Now imagine that the alien civilisation’s lifespan is measured by the point of a dart and that the dart is thrown at random towards the dart board. Wot are the chances of it landing near our hole?”

“About as likely as you buying me the next pint?” I ventured.
“Yeah, and that’s no chance!”

It’s nice to know you can rely on some things in an increasingly dodgy universe.


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