Blog

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Eden is out there...

The news has been reading a lot like science fiction recently. India has just launched its satellite mission to Mars (called Mangalyaan) which will take about a year to arrive. It's interesting to me that India is attempting to join the space super-powers, since in my first book I have India being the first to reach Eden...

The second news item is an estimate that there are up to 20 billion planets in our galaxy in what is known as the Goldilocks zone, i.e. capable of sustaining life (these are known as extrasolar planets). The nearest could 'only' be twelve light years away. These estimates are based on statistical research linked to NASA's Kepler plamet-hunting satellite over the past few years. It does not mean they are all teeming with life, however, since there are a range of factors that need to be in the right state for life to happen (and we don't know them all). But even so, if one in a thousand did have life, that would still mean 200 million planets with some form of life (not necessarily intelligent).

So, hang on a minute, if this is true, why haven't they been here (of course some people think they have  been here or are here)? Part of this relates to what is known as Fermi's Paradox, which I did a blog on a while ago. The second part relates to another recent news item in the Economist about interstellar travel (the cartoon is from The Economist), pointing out how difficult it is to travel to other stars and their planets, because the galaxy is so mind-bogglingly big, and the distances between stars almost incomprehensible (we've also been spoiled by Star Trek and other SF visions wherein intersteller travel is routine). But various groups of scientists are working on it, including astrophysicist / SF writer Gregory Benford, considering options from nuclear detonations to laser-powered sail-ships. These ideas are of course theoretical, but the relatively recent discovery of so many extrasolar planets has given such research more focus.

One important point that links India's Mars mission to interstellar travel is that we would probably need to colonise our solar system (or at least have bases on Mars and/or Jupiter's or Saturn's moons, for example) before we could engage in interstellar voyages). As in the film Contact (based on Carl Sagan's novel), where Jodie Foster made a deeper impact than in the recent Elysium, meeting aliens involves taking small steps, one at a time.

What does all this add up to? Basically, we live in very interesting times, although it might be a long time - or even never - before we get to find out if we are really alone in the galaxy.

But if, in about fifty years time, we find a planet that appears to be Eden-like, and we have developed a means of getting there, I hope someone in charge has read The Eden Paradox...


The Eden Paradox series available from Amazon in paperback and ebook

The Eden Paradox - where we find out we are not alone, and we have been betrayed...
Eden's Trial - where we are judged, and found wanting...
Eden's Revenge - where it gets personal...
Eden's Endgame - where it all ends... (due Spring 2014)

2 comments:

  1. I've often wondered if the reason we're not picking up any signals from other stars is that we're just the most advanced species in the neighborhood. We've also only been looking for 50 years, and the galaxy is huge. If the nearest intelligent life forms to Earth are, say on a planet 500 light years away, and they developed radio when we did, we still wouldn't hear from them for the next 400 years or so. It's thoughts like these that make me wonder if the lack of evidence is even worth worrying about. Maybe we just haven't been watching long enough.

    Oh, and on a related note, last I heard NASA is gearing up to test a feasible model for what is called on Star Trek, Warp Drive. It's mathematically possible, so who knows, maybe 20 or 50 or 100 years from now we'll be going to other stars to look for life in person!

    (Warp Drive a.k.a. Alcubierre Drive test link: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/164326-nasa-discusses-its-warp-drive-research-prepares-to-create-a-warp-bubble-in-the-lab)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yep, two fellow writers (Gary Gibson & Mike Formicelli) both put me onto Alcubierre Drives some time ago. I really hope NASA cracks it one day, otherwise we have to be incredibly lucky to be listening at just the right time, probably hearing from a civilisation that has long since passed into obsolescence...

    ReplyDelete

 
© Barry Kirwan | info@barrykirwan.com
website by digitalplot