Monday, February 25, 2013

Astrobiology & "Whom Do I Send?"

I did not realize until today that I had neglected my blog for so long! For that, I apologize. I have some catching up to do.

My husband has published his first book, "Legacy of Dragons: Emergence". It is the first book in a planned series, "Legacy of Magic". We are very excited about its emergence into the world! Please take a look at his blog and see if it tickles your fancy: T.D. Raufson - Legacy of Magic

Astrobiology Class - For the past five weeks, I've been a student of the Coursera course "Introduction to Astrobiology". This is the last week, and I'm sad that it is over now. It was taught by Professor Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh. I have truly enjoyed this general introduction to astrobiology. The Professor and his team created some wonderful video lectures. I actually looked forward to Mondays, for once! I truly hope that there is an Advanced course offered later.

Astrobiology is a fusion of many disciplines (including biology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy). It involves the study of life. This includes life in our own backyard as well as "life out there", as our own local biology can give us at least a base to start from. The lectures were never above my head, although he did throw out a detail or two that I needed to look up on my own. Of course, having a few things to search for on one's own is never a bad thing. The class gave me a better understanding of some of the topics presented on, especially the bits about the Curiosity mission and the search for exoplanets.

In this last week, we discussed some of the social implications of first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. One point of discussion was, who would best represent Earth if we did meet somebody? If the aliens requested a delegation from Earth, whom would we choose?

I think it's an excellent question. Even if we never get the chance to make such a choice, I think it's an interesting thought experiment. I sat down and thought about it for a while.

The question was, would we send scientists? Diplomats? My opinion is, we would need a group with a variety of technical talents. However, I think the personal qualities of a representative are far more important than their technical skills. Are they adaptable? Are they used to working under extreme pressure? Do they represent a wide variety of viewpoints? Do they respect forms of life other than human? In light of these qualities, I would probably select... the Dalai Lama.

Here are my reasons: he loves and respects all people. In fact, he often speaks of "sentient beings" in general rather than just "humans", so I think he would be open to speaking with other species on an equal level. I think he would meet them with equanamity and calm. He's been trained as a leader and a speaker/debater since his childhood. He has traveled the world over and is familiar with many parts of it and many of the people in it. He may be sheltered somewhat from the average life, but I think he would have a good idea of what he was representing. The Chinese government would not approve, but you can't please everybody. I think he would still happily represent the Earth, China included. I also think he is capable of working on a global level, not just for his own nation.

Of course, I wouldn't send him alone. He would be one of two leaders. He would be my olive branch. The other would be my "big stick". I would want someone with military experience. Not a warmonger, though. Not someone whose first instinct is to go to war. I want someone who will act and speak with wisdom and determination but will also give the impression that we are not doormats. I would send someone like Colin Powell. He's been a general AND a diplomat. I think he would prefer peace, but I think he would work to defend us well if that became necessary. If the aliens are pacificsts anyway, well, no worries. If they aren't, it's possible they will have respect for a big stick, even if it isn't used. Say, if they were more like Klingons than Vulcans, they might be more willing to treat us as equals if we had a seasoned general on the team than if we didn't.

I'd have some scientists, along, of course, but ones with people skills, those used to dealing with the public. Dr. Pamela Gay is an astronomer. She hosts with Fraser Cain. I love that show! She really knows her science, and she communicates well. She is friendly, has a good sense of humor, and is well-traveled. And yes, she is a woman. I think a diversity in ability, gender, nationality, and race is important to demonstrate who we are as a planet (as long as other requirements are met).

If Carl Sagan were still among the living, I would include him for sure. I am certain there are others around the world in SETI that would be a good part of the team.

I'm sure there are others in the world that are qualified to go, but they simply aren't in my "mental address book", as it were. We have a rich, full world, with many nations of both the wise and the foolish. Do you know of any scientists/diplomats/artists/linguists/other people that are not in the mainstream English-speaking sphere that might be a good representative of a good chunk of people on this planet? Whom would YOU send?