Friday, April 3, 2009

Donkeys to stardust

I have recently listened to radio commercials that begin with the famous 'stupid laws still on the books' theme. This one recalls an Arizona law that states it is illegal to let your donkey sleep in the bathtub. Ask yourself, how far are we removed from a time when such a law was passed? I'm sure the laws intention was valid and good but what does it mean?

Arizona became a state in 1912. I'm sure this law was passed before that time in the wild-wild-west. But consider, how far are we actually removed from that time 150 years ago? How much in our world has changed? We live in a comfort society where our every whim is within reach in a matter of minutes. Arizona 150 years ago was little more than what we would now consider a third-world country. Except for a relative few people no one would have any idea why such a law existed back then. The modern person has no basis in collective reality to that time period.

We like to think of ourselves as masters of our domains. But how far does our domain reach? The wondrous probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched in the late seventies have extended mankind's hand into the universe and they are on the verge of reaching interstellar space. Voyager 1 has crossed the termination shock of our solar system and is on the verge of entering the heliosheath (the first stage where the solar wind encounters resistance from interstellar space). It is the furthest point a man-made object has traveled. When they were launched they were state-of-the-art in space pioneering. Pioneer 10 launched before the Voyager crafts carries with it images of mankind and a gold record consisting of greetings and sounds of our blue marble. It too is on it's way into the void of space.

What would happen if it is discovered by a life form. (I for one believe there is life among the stars). There are just a few things that could happen. The life forms could be so primitive by our standards they have no conception of what it is. They would simply beat it to smithereens with clubs. A civilization could be the near equivalent of our own and understand it's meaning OR have such a different technology that a 'record' has no meaning. I suppose they could play Frisbee with it. Lastly, it could encounter a species that has evolved far ahead of us and our wonder of exploration would be so backward that it is the equivalent of the 'donkey law'. They may never understand it's meaning and our attempt would be futile.

I suppose it could be understood and after many generations sent back to us as the outstretched hand of brotherhood. Where is Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk when you need them?

No comments:

Post a Comment