As a kid I was ever so slightly geeky, and rather obsessed with space. My parents, always keen to support my quest for knowledge, bought me a telescope one birthday and I used to spend many an evening gazing up at the moon and the stars in awe. Eventually hormones kicked in, and my interest in heavenly bodies shifted somewhat closer to home.
There are approx 300 billion stars in our galaxy. And there are more than 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. So, doing a quick bit of maths, there are a shitload of stars out there. And although not all of them support intelligent life, a heck of a lot of them surely must.
Of course whether ours can be said to do so is increasingly debatable in the age of Trump, Brexit and the ongoing spectacle of a race seemingly intent on bringing about its own extinction. On the plus side, Donald Dumpf is a gift to comedy, although in the minuscule cluster of neurons that passes for his brain, he probably thinks we are laughing with him and not at him. How deluded can one person get?
At least many in pre-Brexit Britain have had the courage and insight to see they screwed up, bigly. I can’t imagine the halfwit orange clown ever entertaining a moment of doubt about his decisions. But then such are the twisted machinations of the immature narcissist’s mind.
The inhabitants of some of those distant star systems might look up at their night skies and, like us, gaze in wonder at the myriad sparkling points of light with a sense of the sheer vastness and majesty of it all. Unless they live underground. Or at the bottom of deep oceans. Or have no equivalent of human sight and navigate via magnetic fields, smell or perhaps by humming.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds.”
David Bowie, Starman
Of course the mind boggling scale of our universe is tricky to grasp, and our thinking about alien life has been heavily influenced by decades of science fiction stories, movies and the babblings of delusional attention seekers, claiming to have been abducted by aliens. The reality is that aliens are not coming anytime soon. It’s too bloody far and there’s simply no reason why anyone would be arsed to visit our insignificant little planet. Unless they also find the spectacle of a petty, tinpot dictator totally out of his depth a hoot.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”
As a young man I once saw the heavenly Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry at a gig in London. I approached nervously and got a signed photograph for the first and only time in my life (I still have it). She seemed impossibly glamorous and famous to me, a shy, pimply youth on a drink-fuelled night out in London’s Camden town. Rapture indeed.
Our own star, the Sun – a yellow dwarf – is 1.4 million km (870,000 miles) across. Yet as vast as that sounds, it is really quite a tiddler in galactic terms. Betelgeuse (Don’t say it three times!) is a rather hulking brute of a star, over a thousand time as big. And its not even close to being the biggest of the bigly. The somewhat inelegantly named UY Scuti is calculated to have a volume five billion times greater than our sun! Now that’s one big mofo.
Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Perhaps other alien races, high on bizarre mind-expanding concoctions, might laugh their (possibly multiple) arses off at an old scf-fi series they intercepted about a strange race with insatiable curiosity, who end up boldly-going to right wrongs, shag sexy aliens and do a lot of interfering where no one has interfered before. It’s nice to think they’d arrive one day and signal their peaceful intentions by playing the original Star Trek theme to us:
“Da-DAH, Da Da Da Da DAAAAAAAAH!”
In reality, a close encounter might be more along the lines of the excellent Arrival from last year. But of course any intelligent species that did rock up would best avoid landing in the good ‘ol US of A. It’s far too dangerous. I suspect they’d land here in Denmark. We’re far less likely to shoot them and we expats are masters at decoding weird and unintelligible languages.
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2017. All rights reserved.