Boffins: Bebo interstellar spam aliens don't exist after all
Gliese 581d 'too crusty' for civilisation to arise
Astroplanet boffins in America say that humanity may not, as had been expected, soon be the target of an interstellar assault from alien civilisations unwisely enraged by Web-2.0 teenybopper portal Bebo. It appears that the planet Gliese 581d - which might have mounted an invasion of the Solar System as soon as 2049 - cannot after all support life.
Regular Reg readers will doubtless recall that the red dwarf star Gliese 581, located 20.3 lightyears off in the constellation Libra, is considered one of the closest known locations which might be home to an alien race of the same general type as humanity. This is because boffins have at different times assessed that either the third or fourth planet of the system lies at such a distance from its dim, red sun as to permit the existence of liquid water on its surface.
Liquid water is relatively rare stuff in the universe, most places being icy cold or steamy hot, but it is regarded among boffins as an essential prerequisite for the appearance of life along Earthly lines - the general class of possible life which would be of most interest to us humans. Hence the general boffinry preoccupation with liquid water off Earth, and the resulting interest in the Gliese 581 system.
So great has this interest been that last October, in a cunning publicity stunt, the powers behind Bebo decided to compile a large multimedia package composed by the site's userbase and beam it at Gliese 581 from a rented Ukrainian radiotelescope controlled by controversial "active SETI" proponent Alexander Zaitsev.
The interstellar Bebo spamgasm may prove embarrassing for the human race should it ever be picked up. As one might expect, it consists primarily of material related to the amusing antics of cats, boy crooners and other matters of interest only to mental cripples. There is also a large selection of text messages ("Hi im nicole, i would love to appear on the west end stage in a hit show.i also wouldnt mind doing a few television programs. anyway laters.Nicole x").
Indeed, as of April it appeared that the human race might suffer worse than just embarrassment as a result of the ill-judged interstellar missive. At that time, boffinry opinion held that Gliese 581d was actually an oceanic planet, possibly host to a ravening, self-mothered pseudohydrozoan immortal Dr Who jellyfish clone vampire blobomination horror-swarm of the type already found (in diminutive form, fortunately) in the oceans of Earth. Even if the jellies were actually peaceful, it seemed unlikely that they would remain so after the Bebo spam-blast struck their system in the year 2029.
Next page: Gliese 581: The Crustening
Yeah Mike ...
But speed doesn'r automatically convey importance or significance. A species that operates on timescales long enough to watch continental drift isn't necessarily one that hasn't got anything important to say. Its true, though, if we met one they would either not even notice us, or we would appear like mayflies to them.
Protiens are not a prerequisite to life either -- protiens are for the likes of *us* and if *they* were using ammonia as a solvent then it would be very unlikely they would have any use for them. Here on Earth, there are bacteria that live and feed happily on ammoniac compounts and excrete nitrates in return. Thankfully, otherwise no agriculture.
Ammonia is only a nasty chemical if you didn't evolve in it. To those that did, liquid water would probably be as every bit as nasty as ammonia is to us.
I appreciate our ammonia-swilling methane inhaling overlords.
@ Bounty @ Greg Fleming
'So what is it? Too cold or too hot.'
The answer is - it depends.
On a small planet that cools quickly, or where there isn't enough tidal massaging to keep it turning over; CO2 comes out of volcanoes, reacts with the surface rocks to form carbonates and gets locked away forever. No CO2, no greenhouse effect, the surface of the planet begins to cool, eventually taking water vapour out of the atmosphere - increasing the cooling, and you end up with a Mars.
If the planet gets too hot - from being too close to the sun, there's no chance of surface oceans as it boils into the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and taking with it one of the big carbon sinks for dissolved CO2. Over a certain temperature, the carbonates in the crust also start to release CO2, the greenhouse effect goes crazy bad and you have Venus.
'Not strictly a prerequisite to organic life. Other solvents (e.g. ammonia) work just as well if you've evolved swimming in them.'
True to an extent, although apart from ammonia being a nasty chemical capable of tearing apart proteins; it's also liquid at such low temperatures that chemical reactions run really slowly - so even if we did meet an alien lifeform that smelt like a blocked toilet, it'd be a painfully slow conversation - a bit like IMing over BT Total Broadband (see I got an IT angle) - the good news is that you could probably run away from it.
Great Stuff from Lewis...
I for one welcome our new ravening, self-mothered pseudohydrozoan immortal Dr Who jellyfish clone vampire blobomination horror-swarm overlords.
Lewis Page, I salute you! Wonderful article.