Sunday, May 02, 2010

Discovery Channel offers Stephen Hawking "extraterrestrial videos" with a sober warning; tonight: "Into the Universe"; "How the Universe Works"

Recently Larry King Live broadcast a discussion with professor Stephen Hawking on the possibility that aliens could have detected our radio signals – including “I Love Lucy” shows – since they’ve now had about 70 years to do so. It’s conceivable that if there is an advanced civilization within 35 light years, it could be on its way. And it might not treat us better than we treat native populations. So some sobriety is indicated in contemplating the possibility of alien abduction.

I had thought that tonight’s Discovery Channel films were going to expand; they did not cover aliens, but I found a link on Discovery with seven videos showing Hawking’s conception of possible aliens and even invasions. Possibly, with mirrors around a star focusing energy to a collection point (a good algebra problem involving hyperbolic foci) aliens would generate enough energy to navigate wormholes. Or they might approach Earth in large flotillas of space ships. They probably won’t be as kind-hearted as Smallville’s Clark Kent. An attacking alien flotilla could knock out Earth electronics permanently with a high-altitute EMP blast. (A "sequel" to my "Titanium" screenplay called "Prescience" includes that idea.)

But Discovery tonight did broadcast a one hour “How the Universe Works” with a program about black holes, similar to that of the History Channel’s Universe series. Some of the footage seemed to be the same. But the documentary proposed that every super black hole (as at the center of the Milky Way) could have a White Hole on the other end that creates a new universe, leading to infinitely but countably many universes. They could have different forces or constants (a weakless universe, without the weak force, would not have heavy radioactive elements but might still host life). The documentary explained how black holes can emit gas streams that generate whole galaxies, called quasars as they start.

Discovery continued with Hawking’s “Into the Universe” for two hours. Early on, they covered a type of super nova that could generate a gamma ray burst, and suggested that life on Earth was severely impacted 450 million years ago by such a burst. There is one star about 1000 light years away that could conceivably generate such a burst again.

The second hour covered a “Man in Space” forecast (very much like the “Understanding” convention from 1978 (check the posthumous website for Dan Fry) ). The nearest known “Earth 2” is about 20 light years away, and that would take 300000 years to reach today. But presumably we will develop Diaspora-like spaceships capable of approaching life speeds. But still, we could not ethically send whole generations abroad, some of whom might have whole generations living on the ships, without resolving our whole “culture war” debate – consider the “natural family” debate that I’ve covered on other blogs. A society that built such a flotilla could not recover the economic investment within current lifetimes. But technology that increases longevity, as with gene therapy or even new kinds of radiation-resistant skin, comes into the debate as to how to make interstellar colonization possible, as well as discussions on how much procreation would occur.

Discovery does have Stephen Hawking’s material on aliens on its website here, with seven short videos, showing possible squid-like beings in the undersea area of Europa, grazing and hunting animals on other worlds, and gas-bag life in the atmosphere of Jupiter. On earth, the box jellyfish might be something like alien life.

Discovery Networks offers this brief trailer on YouTube:

Picture: could an earth-like alien hang-out at a gay disco?

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