Q: Aliens. Are they out there?
A: We all want there to be, right? And we have all heard the argument based on the large numbers of possibilities in the universe. So many stars, many of which have planets, means tons of opportunities for intelligent life to develop. The odds are favorable, I believe, that there are aliens out there. But now comes the bad news. Space is big. I know that you know it’s big, but it is hard to fathom just how big. This may put it in perspective: The Voyager probe, travelling at 35,000 miles per hour, reached Pluto in ten years. How long would it take to reach the nearest solar system? 835 centuries! For comparison, scholars place the dawn of civilization at 50 centuries ago. But, you say, surely we can build a faster ship. How much faster? Ten times? One hundred times? Even at one thousand times faster, it would still take nearly a century to get to the closest solar system.
And if there are aliens out there, it is not likely they are in the next solar system over, or even the one past that. Heck, they may be hanging out in the next galaxy over. Even traveling at the speed of light, it would take millions of years to reach the nearest large galaxy.
Yeah, there are aliens out there. But it’s just the dismal reality that we will never get to meet them. Ever. Almost makes it worse than them not being there at all.
Emmett Swan’s story “The Song of the Moohee”
in Metaphorosis Friday, 14 May 2021.
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