In Search of … Alien Megastructures

The Hubble Telescope opened up and increased our knowledge of the universe exponentially. Its unprecendented success opened up the possibility of putting up even more powerful telescopes in space for us to learn more about our Universe.

One such project is the ATLAST, or the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope, scheduled to launch between 2025 to 2035. The ATLAST would be several times more powerful than the current Hubble Telescope. The project’s main mission, is to find habitable planets in the universe by analyzing its composition.

However, aside from its primary mission, one intriguing use for the ATLAST and its successors I think is its ability to detect alien mega structures.

‘Extra-Terrestrial Megastructures’
In 1960, Physicist Freeman Dyson postulated in a major scientific journal that if you look at the history of human civilization, one major theme that he noticed as we grew more advanced we tended to consume more and more energy for our use.

Consquently, as we grow even more advanced, then we would be needing even more and more energy, to the point that somewhere in our distant future, we would be seeking to exploit the vast energy of a star.
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Miracles

Purely Personal : Filipino Girl’s Cure Supports Cause For Sainthood (Phil. Daily Inq. Article)

Carl Sagan once said something like, “….. Extraordinary events, require extraordinary evidence …..”

This recent article got me into thinking, just in time for the Holy Week. Surely, it is a clear sign from God. A well-off family (you have to be well off to be able to fly off to Italy on a whim, & send your child to Assumption) sires a child which the world of Medicine clearly documents & says have no hope of living a normal life.

The family prays fervently to a Saint, even places the child on the top of her tomb, and against all odds, she is miraculously healed, & is now living a normal life. Continue reading

Possible Extra-Terrestrial Life In Our Solar System

Aside from the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), another way of determining if there really is some sort of extra terrestrial life in the Universe would a more comprehensive exploration of the planet MARS, & of Jupiter’s moon, EUROPA.

Where there’s water, there’s likely to be LIFE. Mars & Europa are basically the only other worlds out there aside from Earth that are thought to have some form of water on or below its surface.

2 of Jupiter’s moons, Titan & Triton, also seems to have water, but frozen in ice. Scientist are less sure of the presence of liquid water on these moons, so planned future explorations are geared to also try to confirm this.

‘Mars’

Over the years, as exploration of Mars continues, Scientists are getting more & more evidence that water once did exist on that planet. The latest findings that seem to support that are the presence of ridges or surface features that could only be likely formed thru the action of flowing water: Spacecraft Finds Evidence of Underground Fluids on Mars – February 15th, 2007

Does water still exist up to now on Mars, somewhere in its underground chambers? That one very tantalizing question to answer. If they find water underground during actual exploration, there is a very good chance that they will find some form of life there.

‘Europa’

Scientists have known for decades about the presence of water on that moon, but the problem is that it is a bit too far away from us, certainly much farther than Mars. This means it will take longer for us to be able to explore it.

What is more exciting about Europa, though, is that, unlike Mars, where there is no trace of any body of water on its surface, Europa has a lot of it on its surface, albeit underneath a thick layer of ice.

Scientist even estimate that there is more water in Europa than there is on Earth. And again, the presence of water should mean a pretty good chance that some form of life exists there.

Here is one of the latest articles I found on the web about Europa: NASA’s Next Probe Should Visit Europa

‘Are We Alone?’

With the continued exploration of these 2 heavenly bodies in our solar system, I am almost sure, that within the next century or so, we will be able to confirm or not the existence of extra terestrial life in the Universe.

If we DO find life on any of these 2 planets, it won’t matter what form it will take, whether it will be in the form of an Algae, or, perhaps even some form of plant or animal. The existince of ANY form of life outside of Earth will confirm that life, is, indeed common in the Universe. If life can exists on at least 3 heavenly bodies here in our Solar System, how much more on others out there?

If we DON’T find life on the waters of these 2 bodies, then that will be big blow to our expectations of life in the Universe. Not necessarily a death blow to those believing that Aliens do exist, but a pretty big blow, nonetheless. If life could not be found on planets or moons w/ water, then how much more so on more less hospitable places?

It will reinforce strongly the theory that life on Earth is UNIQUE, & that we really may be alone in the infinitely vast stretches of the Universe.

The WOW Signal: Mankind's First Contact?

Centuries, or even decades from now, the history of mankind will judge the WOW signal as either just another naturally occuring anomaly in the Universe, or, perhaps, mankind’s first contact w/ extra terrestrial intelligence.

‘SETI’

The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, otherwise known as SETI, was set up in the 60s to enable scientists to detect signals from other possible extra-terrestrial civilizations. They were not just looking for any signal, they were looking for a SPECIFIC TYPE of a signal.

That signal they were looking for composed of the following properties:

* It should cover a narrow spread of frequencies
– Most KNOWN natural radio sources cover a broad spread of frequencies, so a signal w/ a narrow band is more likely to have beenartificially generated;

* It must come from beyond the distance of the Moon
– This is to ensure that such signals have not been generated from Earth;

* It must be near the 1420 Mhz neutral Hydrogen frequency.
– Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, likely to be a common denominator among various civilizations (if any) across the galaxies. It also a relatively ‘quiet’ frequency, free from natural radio interferences. So, any civilizations out there other than our own might see it as a good signal band to use for perhaps communicating w/ other civilizations, or for perhaps inter-planet/stellar communications.

‘The WOW Signal’

Well, guess what? They found that signal in Aug. 15, 1977. The name of the signal, refers to the “Wow!” inscription that SETI volunteer Dr. Jerry Ehman wrote on the computer printout margin when he first saw the signal. The signal lasted for about 72 seconds, or 3 minutes, but it did not contain any sort of message.

So, SETI found the signal which they were looking for. But there was one, big, problem: It wasn’t repeatable. Subsequent searches have been done around the area where the signal occurred showed no such occurrence again.

Since it wasn’t a, “Hello-Earth-this-is-the-Borg-calling-prepare-to-be-assimilated” type of a signal, then it was important that it be repeatable so it can be accepted by the scientific community as a proof of alien intelligence. It wasn’t.

‘Analysis’

After the first euphoric observation by Lehman, the subsequent analysis of the signal ended up subdued, mainly due to the lack of repeatability of the signal, & the fact that the signal occurred in 1977, very much at a time when the Cold War between the US & USSR was in effect. There was a possibility, that the signal could’ve been a result of a cold war experiment, or secret military operations between the two warring countries. However, years after the end of the Cold War, no such information about the signal have ended up, ruling out this possibility.

Subsequent analysis of the signal thru the years also have strenghtened the case for it being an alien signal. The only other alternative, or plausible explanation now for the signal, aside from it being a signal from an extra terrestrial civilization, is that it is a currently unknown natural anomaly that occurs in the Universe.

‘Allen Telescope Array’

Some scientist are optimistic that, once the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is completed by the year 2025, we would know whether there really are intelligent life out there transmitting radio signals or not. The project is named after its benefactor, Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder), & will eventually be composed of 350 individual radio telescopes. It is the Radio-Observation-Device to end all Radio-Observation-Devices. If there is an alien signal out there, this one will find it. Again, & again.

Is Islam A Religion Of Peace?

That seems to be in the mind of a lot of people nowadays. While every religion has their share of crackpots, recent events seem to show that Muslims have had more than their share of crackpots. In Afganishtan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc., amost every day, at least every week, people seem to be getting killed in the name of Islam.

But, if you read Islam’s teachings, you get the impression that it is a relatively benign religion. So how is it that Muslims end up killing themselves & other people in the name of Allah & Mohammed?

The reasons are quite complex, but my idea, is that it may likely have to do w/ the organization of Islam itself, the example set by Mohammed, & the us” against “them” mentality of the Muslims themselves.

‘No Central Organization’

One of the main beef against the Catholic Church, is its centralized organization. The power of the Church emanates from one person, the Pope, & this results in a rigid organization.

And yet, that rigid organization, while it has done some things that are not good, ironically also ensures that the church keeps the crackpots out as much as possible. On every issue, whether political, moral & social, there is basically one position which the church takes. Not so w/ the Muslims. Islam tends to have a loose organization of clerics, and as a result, issues regarding the world at large tend to be varied.

There is no one voice that says what is Islamic, & what is not. The Catholic church, on the other hand, has the power to excommunicate, & even brand as heretic any extreme opinions that might be out there related to Christ. As a result, the Church is able to distance itself from religious extremists (well, most of them, anyway), & these extremists themselves end up as being religious outcasts.

‘Messianic Example’

But, some people might say, hey, Islam is not the only religion w/ a non-centralized organization. Buddhist & Hindus also have a non-centralized organization, but they don’t seem to have the same level of religious extremism found w/ Islam.

Which brings us to the next point, which is the example set by their religion’s main figure. Islam has Mohammed for a prophet, while Christianity has Jesus.

According to the Gospels, Jesus was man, but ascended as God. Mohammed, on the other hand, had always stressed that he was MAN, a prophet, or messenger of God.

Jesus was mainly a RELIGIOUS leader. Mohammed, on the other hand, was not only a religious leader, he was also a POLITICAL & even a MILITARY leader.

When Jesus was persecuted, he allowed himself to be crucified. It was an act of humility, & love. As God, he presumably had the power to kill all the Roman soldiers in the empire at once with the flick of his fingers. He is, after all, God. But he did no such thing, because he supposedly so loved the world, that he was willing to die for sin of mankind. His divinity, allowed him to offer such a sacrifice, & still end up maintaining his dignity as man, or God.

Mohammed, on the other hand, being man, had no such luxury. When persecuted, he sought refuge in Medina, where we became a religious & political leader, bringing all the people in place as one. Later, against the forces of Mecca, he fought back. He went out, & won in several crucial battles that secured his power base in Medina, which then grew to Mecca, & eventually the rest of the world.

Let me clarify: I am not saying that is wrong. I am saying, that is what happened.

That is one reason, why Muslims tend to have less qualms about confrontation. To fight for God, is a holy & noble thing, just as Mohammed had done. That act, is what eventually one of the main reasons that extremists distort for their own stup_d & crazy deeds.

Of course, I don’t think that is what Mohammed intended to in the first place, I feel that his was mainly a defensive act (in some cases, offense is the best defense), but like it or not, that act of defiance, of fighting back had a profound effect on some of those that practice Islam. ‘Ka-ya mata-tapang ang ma-nga mus-lim’. Fighting for their religion, based on example, is one of the main features of Islam.

‘Us Versus Them’

The last piece of the puzzle, at least for me, is the fact that Muslims tend to have that “us” against “them” mentality. In some perverse way, they will always be biased towards fellow muslims, no matter what the issue is. That is why, in the general Muslim world, opinions about Osama Bin Laden tend to be somewhat indifferent, or even in some cases, sympathetic.

Again, this could possibly be traced back to the fact that Muslims have always had to fight for their religion. As a result, you need to have a clearer sense of who our allies are, & who are your enemies, regardless of the consequences.

In that kind of an environment, religious extremist tend to thrive, as is what is happening right now.

‘Conclusion’

A lack of clear, united direction on political & social issues; An example that extremists exaggerate & exploit, & a sense that they always have to fight for their God as a community united in religion, all these seem to result in what we are seeing now, which is a rash of violence from the extremists emanationg from the Islamic community.

The answers will not be easy, but it seems that some Muslims are already realizing what needs to be done to help curb the violence. This morning (Sun., June 4, 2006), Canadian authorities raided a terror group in Canada who were planning to detonate at least 3 tons of explosives in sites within the US & Canada. The Canadian Muslim organization hailed the act of the Canadian authorities, & urged Muslims everywhere to cooperate w/ authorities to stamp out religious extremists.

Such examples, are a crucial part, on what Islam needs to do, to keep itself from being exploited by those who seek to use its name for violent ends.

The Purpose of Religion

Its not surprising that the percentage of Atheists in prison is very, very small. Minute, even. I go one step further: During World War 2, there’s popular saying among ground troops that, “There’re no Atheists in foxholes”.

‘Hope’

This simply illustrates one of the main, if not the main purposes of religion: To provide people HOPE.

That’s not necessarily bad. Its just the way things are. That’s human nature.

In very difficult environments, and/or situations, MOST people, MOST of the time need something outside of their lives to cling on to. Something at a higher level, something positive. Its almost like a survival instinct: To survive in such tough environments, you need to have some positive outlook in your life. In order to have that sliver of positivity in your life, most of the time, its easy to find shelter in religion.

‘Morality’

And not only does religion give hope, it also serves as an effective guide to MORALITY.

Morality, just like everything else, becomes bad, only when overdone. Like that corrupt Lito Atienza, for example, ‘na pa diyos-diyos pa, pa ban-ban pa daw ng “The Da Vinci Code”‘.

People need that guide, to know what is right, & what is wrong, to a certain limit. And religion, is one of the most effective, if not THE most effective tool or vehicle for morality.

‘To Each His Own’

People need to have a guide, & to have hope, to persevere thru all the evil that men do to each other, & religion is the most basic, & accessible escape for that. In that purpose, religion becomes a beacon for a majority of lost souls.

Religion, in itself only becomes evil, when it imposes its will upon others, in terms of belief & excessive morality.

When religion becomes a source of BIAS & DISCRIMINATION, then it doesn’t serve its correct purpose anymore.

Like, for example, Christian Fundamentalists starts entertaining fantasies like those “Left Behind” series of books. Or, when Muslims insists on discriminating on those not of their faith. That, is when religion becomes a BAGGAGE, instead of a beacon.

I like it how the National Geographic Channel puts it. In the recent documentaries about Christianity, they always ended it w/ a saying to something like, “It all depends, on what we choose to believe”.

So, let people believe what they want to believe. It serves a NOBLE purpose. Unless, of course, their beliefs end up NOT serving that noble purpose anymore. That will now be an entirely different matter.