The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Extraterrestrial life

A Probabilistic Analysis of the Fermi Paradox

Just a thought… 1500 years later…

I thought it appropriate to post this paper here, among the pages of an incomplete dream…

physics4me

Evan Solomonides, Lisa Kaltenegger, Yervant Terzian
The fermi paradox uses an appeal to the mediocrity principle to make it seem counter-intuitive that humanity has not been contacted by extraterrestrial intelligence. A numerical, statistical analysis was conducted to determine whether this apparent loneliness is, in fact, unexpected.
An inequality was derived to relate the frequency of life arising and developing technology on a suitable planet in the galaxy, the average length of time since the first broadcast of such a civilization, and a constant term. An analysis of the sphere reached thus far by human communication was also conducted, considering our local neighborhood and planets of particular interest. We clearly show that human communication has not reached a number of stars and planets adequate to expect an answer.
These analyses both conclude that the Fermi paradox is not, in fact, unexpected. By the mediocrity principle and numerical modeling, it is actually…

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Questions…

You Julian ~ Last year was hard on both of us. The Summer was beautiful, coming after that long extended Winter, and no Spring… Having time together, away from business and political worries, was wonderful. We enjoyed that time, the trip through Germany, the Ostsee, the days in Berlin, soaking up the landscapes, the architecture, the history, the art. And you were there, caring, attentive, stunning. We ran in Tempelhof, wandered in Unter den Linden, visited the Bundestag, ate chips and Curry Wurst on the Alexander Platz, cuddled in Viktoria Park… Your city became mine, I belonged there, with you.

All the time I sensed how much you wanted me to be close, not drifting, not worrying about ghosts. I want to assure you that, all that time, I was with you, and with no-one else. This imagination of mine then played tricks on me, and this got worse when we came back to England. So the end of last year was a struggle: I know that I was responsible for that. I still feel ashamed about it.

But I have questions, and you may be able to answer, at least some of them. Who really is Helga? She has been helping me, that I understand, but what her role is, what she is to you, I do not know. I occasionally read about her in the international media. She’s written a book about Carl Jung. But I cannot recall when we first met, my memory is failing me (perhaps you will recall what the Worker of Secrets says to Siris: “… this failing memory of yours…”)

Then, there is Gabrielle, who claims to be a historian. Does Gabrielle teach? I imagine that you may know, but perhaps you don’t. About her, I am perhaps even more in the dark than I am about Helga. Obviously the two of them know each other, of that I am convinced. I have a very vague recollection of visiting Gabrielle once, at her place, and it must have been in London. That is very confused in my mind. Were we together?

We have this weekend to talk about it, if you want.

After some time Julian recognises the building, despite the near total darkness. He can hear sounds of activity around him, boots making contact with the hard and dry concrete, the vibration of engines, but no human voice. The air is cold, almost metallic, with a whiff of wood fire; he realises he’s wearing a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Slowly his sight gets used to the dim lights that appear flickering in the distance. Groups of soldiers in fatigues are loading crates and machines on trucks: he is certain now to be back to the warehouse in Brooklyn, where once Sarah and him were guests to Gabrielle and Elga. 

He sees and recognises the door to the elevator. It is not guarded, in fact no-one seems to pay any attention to his presence. He walks toward the door: it is unlocked. In a few steps he is in front of the elevator, the metal doors open and let him in. It opens again, as the first time, and Julian finds himself in a lit corridor which he recognises immediately: it is the same place. Traditional prints of boats and aircrafts decorate the adobe walls. 

There is no sound. Julian walks to the end of the corridor, finds the entrance to the conference room. There the general showed them a view of the city. There Sarah and Elga exchanged knowing smiles. And there, Melissa was for ever protecting him in an invisible cloak of attention… Melissa… But he is now walking into the room.

The room is lit by dimmed spot lights facing the white ceiling and walls. People in uniforms are sitting around a central circular table, now as then. There appears to be some sort of shimmering hologram at the centre of the table. A little aside, flanked by four masked guards, stands a hooded shape. Immediately, Julian knows that, under the hood, is no human face; at that instant he would say the hidden body may not even be organic. There is a light current of air flowing through the room. He is suddenly aware of a presence behind him. Slowly he turns round to face that presence, with some expectation, and no fear. There standing, is a tall red-haired young woman, wearing a grey jump-suit, who smiles at him, a finger on her lips to request silence. The room goes dimmer.

But he hears a voice: Sarah is waking him up. “Now, my husband fell asleep near the fire, like an old bear!” she laughs. They kiss.

Searching

~ Julian

Otto Steinert Looking back at the past year I have to ask myself: where have I been, and who am I, in reality? On this word, reality, hinges the whole question. As I look out of the window at the January rain falling on the already water-saturated garden, I try to make sense of my failing memories. What comes back to me, in small clouds of sights and sounds, is that what my reality was?

Sarah says “yes, and no”, and I am tempted to call my wife a sophist. But I don’t. I know she’s right, as some of those remembered instants were once real for me, for her husband, the man called Julian. Julian walked on Regent Street, he had a phone call, he visited her page on Facebook… He went to Brooklyn, to Paris, to Berlin. He saw  the missiles on the compound, in the dark pine forest, he saw the blond guards on duty at the new Chancellery. He ran with his wife and his sister around the Tempelhof airfield. All that happened, but other fragments may have only existed in his mind – or did they? How do I tell the difference between what happened, and what could have happened? For me, now, I cannot tell.

So, the question who am I? – That question is legitimate. If part of my life is an imaginary story, am I the writer, or, am I the story? And who writes that story? Am I a character in someone else’s book? And what’s her name? What is the writer’s name?

There is another question haunting me: was the writer, if that was the way it was, was she human? As she wrote those episodes in Julian’s life, was she looking on his past, or her future? Was she anticipating a life not yet in his, her – reality?

Sarah listens to me, from time to time asking me to retell a scene, a dialogue, as if she was analysing this work: “her” novel. But it is all disjointed, my memories are not contiguous, there are gaps, and many, many inconsistencies. Some characters appear in distorted roles, not their “real” functions, or professions. Take Helga, for example. In my memory she’s “Elga” – and she is not from this world, she’s from a far away galaxy. But Helga is our doctor, she is real, she exists not merely in my reality, but Sarah’s, and our friend Gabrielle’s too.

“It will all make sense, finally,” says Sarah, with the smile of patience itself.

“Yes, but even if it does not, does it matter?” I ask in reply. We hug.

Image: Otto Steinert, via Inner Optics

On the threshold (preamble to Book 2)

les-sources-du-nil:  Akira Satō  佐藤 明  From  Elga ~ We know we can win, overcome the objections and fears that obscure our collective judgment, and get the result we want: shape humans to our image, and save ourselves, project ourselves into a new future… But we have not shut our eyes to the dangers. Humans are a clever species, primitive, in their science, in their awareness of their wider surroundings, but clever in the way wild predators are. Many of us think that they cannot be trusted. But on the scale of our own evolution, up to where we are now, what does “trust” mean?

We have engaged with their planetary organisations, we are communicating with their leaders. They have an innate sense of where profit can be, so they are interested. Removing their weaponry under their very eyes did it, such a simple thing. Their best corporate minds are exercising themselves to think of possible applications! We know that some of their scientists are almost in the state of denial about it all: it cannot be done, it’s against the laws of physics. Others are already working, silently trying to decipher what we have given them: the first steps towards the truth.

Then there is Julian. The human being with the unique genetic make-up that may make it possible, if we chose to sacrifice him, to regenerate ourselves: a probability in a billion, if left to chance, but we have the science to improve those odds. This science has produced the woman Melissa. So much has already been achieved, and we must be patient. But we know: Melissa and Julian are a unique pair, and if we lose them, we have to restart form the beginning, and, on this world, it may then be unlikely to succeed. Our chance is here, now, and we must take it.

Sarah ~

We have now been in Berlin for four weeks, working on the tasks assigned to us by Gabrielle. We are absorbing the incomparable atmosphere of this city, my city. What a change for us after the long months of anxiety in London and New York… Julian is now deeply engaged in the group that is considering demographics, genetics and gender. He was at first very surprised to see that he was there the only non-scientist. Most of the group members are biologists, medical doctors, or mathematicians. The majority of the participants are female, and originate from outside the US and Europe. The introductory meeting did not spell out who was to head this work, but of course it is Gabrielle herself. We – Melissa, Julian himself, Jane (who has now joined us from her last fashion show in Tokyo) and me – have been discussing Julian’s role every evening in the little flat in Kreuzberg. We have not concluded anything yet. Julian is still only a nearly silent witness to the deliberations. Yet Gabrielle makes clear to him almost everyday how important – essential she says – his participation is.

Melissa and I are part of the environment work group, led by Katsumi, the Naval officer and biologist who is, in our view, someone very highly placed in the hierarchy of the Great Power to Be. This appears to be the larger group and has participants from all over the world, with perhaps a majority from Asia  and South America. However North America and Europe are well represented too.

The daily routine in the Chancellery, or at the Russian Embassy where some of the other strands meet (the military certainly meet there, we are not sure where the diplomatic group meets, it may be in one of the many government buildings in Unter den Linden) is very regular and fixed. The day starts at eight sharp in the same room of the Chancellery we started in with a brief (fifteen to twenty minutes at most) meeting of all groups recapitulating the day tasks, and stating progress made expressed as percentages of the whole work programme. The start of the conference proper is still a month away.

Early morning the four of us ride to a gym nearby and we exercise for an hour, followed by a simple breakfast on the Potsdamer Platz. Jane then leaves us to ride back and work in the flat, chiefly on the phone to her many correspondents through the world, and preparing the next show. She goes out to run for a couple of hours in Templehof most days. Melissa and me then leave Julian and we join our respective groups. The day finishes at five with a short break for lunch.

A pattern clearly appeared in the environment work group a few days after we started. The group was provided with an impressive library of films, documents, videos, interviews and other material and the first task was to draw up a list of the most pressing priorities on climatic changes or suspected changes. The next step, where we are now, is to identify the obstacles to a comprehensive world wide agreement on policy making. In other terms we are trying to plan a redo of Kyoto. This time procrastination is no option.

Katsumi, who turns out to be from a wealthy Chinese-Japanese family from Northern China, holds several PhD’s from Asian and US universities as well as a doctorate in medicine from Tokyo University. With us she wears the most sober and yet exquisite traditional Chinese clothes. Her agenda is clear: to obtain agreement from the participants on an agenda for a follow up treaty on carbon and other environmental issues. Water is also part of this picture. This will become part of the decisions of the conference.

Julian is less clear than we are on the direction taken by his group. However he knows from informal contacts with other participants that Gabrielle is looking for a proposal on demographics and the role of women in the new order. Some participants have strong views as to what this should be. Julian thinks that Gabrielle won’t reveal the  real aim of the group for some time. The UN general secretary is rumoured to be here for most the conference once it starts.

And what of our evenings? Since Jane joined us we meet at the Gendarmen Market every afternoon after work. Jane is waiting for us in a little café which has the merit of discretion and old Berlin charm, near the French Dom. There we take stock of the day and decide the programme for the evening: Jane usually comes up with good ideas – there is so much to do in this city – and often too with cinema or theatre tickets! Invariably we ride back to the apartment to change and cuddle. For we have succumbed to a wave of lust, to an irrepressible desire for each other, which has no bound. We have given up any pretence: I, Sarah, and Jane share Melissa, Melissa and me share Julian. The four of us adore each other in a way which has made me forget all our doubts. One thing intrigues me more and more though: the way Melissa has adopted my way of walking, my style, even my clothes, and, dare I say it? My way of making love. Julian is over the moon. So am I.

He came back to me…

Sisters Teacher, I do not know how to express the joy and happiness I feel in myself, for Julian has come back to me, he loves me, he is mine. I know how important this man is to you and your cause, Teacher, but at this instant he is mine, my lover, the one I sought for all these years, the one I was desperate to find again.

He is as he always were: a young knight, with now the experience and strength of a grown man. He gave me everything I always wanted from him, and I have already forgotten the bad dreams, the pain, the torture of not reaching him, the solitude I had to endure in life and death, until you saved me. In that quiet street, in the little room with sunlight filtering through the thin white lace curtain he took what has been his all that time: the woman in me, my heart, my mind, my soul, for I belong to him in ways that I cannot explain. All I can say is that he loved what he found, and he knows how to please me, to the depth of me.

Later we walked the streets till early morning: every ten steps I had to kiss him – did I tell you how much I want his mouth, his lips, his tongue? My body, my arms, my hands did not leave him a second. We walked along the river, across the bridges full of light and history. Other couples smiled at us… In Saint-Germain we went to Café de Flore – you remember how keen on literature he’s always been… I, who never drinks, shared a bottle of cool Loire wine with him. We walked back through the Arénes but the little park was closed when we got there, it was already morning… Back to our room we made love till sleep overwhelmed us, enlaced, exhausted, belonging.

I want to say, Teacher, I know he is the Path, the human being you need. And I have promised to help you. I will be loyal to my promise, but I want to say this: I will die defending him if he is in danger – whoever wants his death will have to kill this woman first. One last thing, for I want nothing to be hidden from you, Teacher: I told Sarah everything, and she said she was more than happy that Julian had at long last found me. She also said she was prepared for me to go and live with them two. As you know she and I are already very close. As I write, he is asleep next to me, it will be soon the end of our second day. Then he will go back to London, and when we meet again we will be on our way to you, and to Berlin…

Immersed in the myriads of  combinations and second order equations, and woven in the fabric of the Coven, Gabrielle is thinking, all the time observing the young woman who’s writing to her, next to her lover asleep. How beautiful she is, her Melissa. Yes she, Gabrielle, will continue to protect her. But Julian, of course, is another matter. Melissa led them to him, and he’s proven a little tough, not as pliable as she was. But was Melissa pliable? Or did she understand that her way back to humanity and her man was through them? “We don’t know”, reflects Gabrielle, “if a human being can survive this ordeal. When we tried with specimens of other species we failed: they all died.” And she adds to herself: “And this why we are so cautious here…”

This sombre thought annoys her. Gabrielle has invested so much in this, she and Elga. Their voice was heard, they got what they wanted, the wheels are turning. They are about to change the course of history on this world, and on theirs. And the path to these futures, the renewal of the Coven itself, is dependent on Julian, and for now, on Melissa. What irony, she thinks, remembering the young woman, dying in a pool of her blood, her dress soiled, hideous wounds in her chest and throat, the dying green eyes…

Face to face

Crystal ball I have been summoned: in the night Gabrielle’s voice instructed me to be at her place in the morning, and I was told, politely but firmly, to go on my own.  I tell Sarah, and we talk briefly about what we could expect.  Sarah thinks it might have to do with the offer, that of parthenogenesis.  The Coven may have realised the human females won’t give up their males that easily (“I’ll tell them to go and clone themselves!” was Jane’s reaction, the more remarkable since my sister’s tendencies are well known).  So “they” may want to appraise me of an alternative plan says my wife.  I am skeptical, for I believe now that “they” are indeed all powerful: why should they care about what we think?  Sarah thinks that I am giving up the fight too early, the Coven wants something, and we are not sure what.  Their objective is evidently not mere destruction: they have a goal, and we need to find out what that is.

So I set off just after dawn, and an hour later I am walking the narrow street, deserted at this time.  The chill of the morning air seems sharper here and I walk faster until I reach the long wall and the small door.  The door is unlocked and as I cross the threshold it shuts closed behind me.  “Come in Julian” says Gabrielle’s voice and I slowly reach the end of the corridor.  Gabrielle and another person stand in the room I know so well, in front of the bay window.  It takes me a few seconds to recognise Elga.  Gabrielle signals me to take a seat on the sofa near the chimney.  As on the first time I came to this house a wood fire burns brightly, projecting an eery light in the room.  The two women are sitting in front of me, their backs to the window.  Elga looks now much different from the attractive creature Sarah and I met several months back.  Her long black hair is wrapped in a complicated bun, held by a deep blue metallic ring.  But her clothes… She wears a grey suit reminiscent of the spartan Mao-Tse-Tung tunique, but well cut, buttoned up to her chin, which fits her athletic body well.

I am waiting for one of them to speak, and remain silent. We observe each other for long minutes.  Then Gabrielle addresses me, in a slow voice intended to convince.

“Thank you for joining us at such short notice Julian.  We have to share with you, and through you with your friends if you judge it wise, of a decision the Coven took a few hours – that is for you a few weeks – ago.”  Gabrielle pauses and I look at Elga, who is not smiling but, rather, looking at her companion as if in deep reflection.

“The Coven has now realised the inanity of suggesting a violent solution to what we see as your predicament, and to the risks this may present to us in the future.  Equally we understand how unpractical it would be to impose a ban on your ways to reproduce yourselves…” I am waiting for what is, inevitably, going to follow, but I am wrong, have been wrong all the time.

“Elga is going to explain what we are going to do, as you know she represents the Coven here, you could say, she’s in charge of this sector of your galaxy on our behalf…”

Elga then speaks, and her voice conveys immense authority, and a slight veil of impatience.

“You know that Gabrielle and I have had some difficulties in convincing many of our own about the value of giving you and your species time to evolve further.  In part our problem is due to your use of atomics, and the continuous violence which appears to characterise the way you attempt – and fail – to resolve conflicts.”  I am aware of Elga’s eyes firmly fixed on me, of her beautiful face showing nothing but an implacable resolution.  “We have considered many ways we could intervene without destroying you.  In truth, for many of us, the survival of your beautiful planet is far more important than yours, as a species.  However we have concluded that attempting one without the other may prove costly, for you, and for us.”  Elga pauses, and I am thinking of the meteorite in the skies of Russia.  “So, we have come to this conclusion, unanimously: we have to intervene directly in your affairs, neutralising some of the fatal moves some of your governments may be tempted to make, in one word, practise what you would call a ‘humanitarian mission’ – with a difference, we have the means of obliterating any resistance.”  We are silent, I am listening to the fire, reliving our previous meetings, and Gabrielle finally speaks:

“We have 100% coverage of all of mankind’s present conflict areas and strategic sites.  As you have probably guessed we have spent the past few years developing an extensive – shall we say – spy network of a fine mesh of which your science cannot conceive.  Suffice to say that the same mesh can be used to destroy weaponry of any size and power, from long range missiles down to a single hand gun. “

Elga smiles and adds, suddenly back to a more congenial stance: “We knew you would understand Julian.  Now, what we want you to do, is to explain the situation to your friends.  Melissa has been informed and she will help you prepare the drafts.”

I am waiting, the drafts of what?  Elga resumes, now smiling broadly: “You are going to write to the ten or so top newspapers in your world, explaining the situation in your own words.  You should know now, that people are going to take what you say seriously.”

A Perfect Thread

Destiny So their destiny, thread by thread, unravels: the studious alien, the old flame reborn young, the passionate sister, the beautiful wife, and the writer, bounded by the century of his birth, submerged in his memories.  Of all of them only Jane, Julian’s “lil sis”, has suspicions, not of her friends, not of her brother, but of herself.  Has she contributed to her brother’s buying Melissa’s story stock and barrel?  Yet she, Jane, and Sarah, are living the perfect adventure, and, yes, Melissa, old-style, statuesque, her big eyes fixed on the future, her full lips half-open, adds something indispensable to their love.  So the five of them live in three magic triangles, an alchemy of illusions, and perhaps, still, appearances: Julian – Sarah – Jane, husband and wife, and two lovers, Sarah – Jane – Melissa, three lovers, Gabrielle – Melissa – Jane, a fragile alliance.  Jane knows that Elga – the ultimate mistress of their destinies – observes, her collective awareness surrounding every second of their lives, and more in-between.  For Jane knows that the Coven exists, despite doubting that it exists anywhere but on Earth: she has her own interpretation, which she has so far not shared with anyone other than Sarah.  Sarah does not want to disrupt Julian’s dream, events, she thinks, will do that in due time, there is no need to precipitate a crisis.

So, Julian writes his book, meets his editor, writes to his publisher.  He plans to finish in the autumn and then go on a long holiday, with his wife.  He wakes before dawn and starts working.  Despite the atrocious weather that Spring, he is getting fitter.  Sarah looks at her man with pride and some gentle irony.  Being Jane’s lover has made her closer to him: she now sees his true nature, through Jane’s absolute femaleness she sees her husband machismo as through a prism: two beautiful souls she is lucky to love and be loved by in return.  Besides, Jane is totally devoted to her brother, for her, loving his wife is a way to give herself to him… Sarah’s business is thriving, her gift for subtle mathematics, in this age of markets dislocation, has placed her top of the pack – and she knows how to take advantage of the incompetence of the “specialists”.  She agrees with Julian about the holiday. Once the book is out there they will go away.  The only question in her mind is about Jane.  The logistics of the three of them going away together is of course problematic…  As for the destination, she has already decided: they will visit Japan, and specifically Shikoku, the island of the 88 temples.  There, in Tokushima, they will pay their respect to Kafka, and walk, hand in hand, on the shore.  Sarah would like to have Jane with them then: South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Sarah has no secret for Melissa, who reads her friend as an open book.  Melissa knows of Sarah’s and Jane’s love, and shares their most intimate moments.  Her only goal is to protect Julian, to ensure he is not hurt, and, in that, she and Sarah are allies.  At present she is waiting from Gabrielle a sign that she can meet Elga.  Elga, the collective mind who appeared as the beautiful red-skin, dark-haired woman to Sarah and Julian, appreciates Melissa’s attention to detail, seriousness and timeliness.  Melissa has worked hard, under Gabrielle’s supervision, to learn and understand the Coven’s rules of engagement.  Later she is expected to teach the same to her friends, a task she is uniquely qualified to undertake.  Melissa knows the meteorite that fell in the lake in the Urals was no accident: the myriads of small probes released by the explosion, have by now collected a mass of information on Gaia’s atmosphere, her evolving weather patterns, her changing temperature, as well as an astonishing archive of telecommunication across the small world.  As a consequence Elga is well armed, and the Coven’s decision, when it comes, will be founded on scientific evidence.  In the little old house where her body rests in its human form, Melissa sleeps, dreams, and converses with her own kind, under the benevolent protection of her teacher, Gabrielle.

Voyager

Voyager 1: message I am reconciled: what Melissa told me is the plain truth, and those facts I cannot comprehend will be, one day, clarified.  Sarah is very apt at clarifying the mysteries of life for me, and so is my beloved sister, Jane.  So it is that I won’t go back to the little town soon, unless Sarah insists, rather we will wait for beautiful Elga to contact us.  As she said herself, Melissa is our “mediator”, the one who knows how to communicate with them, and the coven.

There is another change, and I am aware of being happier about it: Sarah appears to be less “into” the other two women in my life, and closer again to me.  Not that she went away, far from it.  Simply I notice Jane’s scent a little less often in our house, and, well, my wife is now friendlier than ever.  It’s not that I don’t like my sister’s visits: I never have enough of Jane… I hear you smile: but this is true, I felt for a while neglected, or at least not loved as I deserved!   Sarah said it was all in my mind, there had been no change, and Jane and her have always been close.  I accept that.  So last Saturday we went to Coven Garden and watched Tosca.  We both love Puccini, and for me he is the absolute artist, the essence of Italian opera, the successor of Verdi.  For a few hours we forgot about the stars and doomed mankind, and worried only for Tosca.

Since I met Melissa at Foyles I have been busy, going back to my writing, more engaged now with my publisher who was about to despair. The book is doing well, and I hope to have a first draft for my editor next month.  Sarah has commented positively, in marked difference from her view a year ago when she said she disliked both the plot and the way I had set the characters.  Jane has promised to comment too. I have also returned to my routine, gym and running, that was interrupted that day when I walked in the Apple store.  Only six months have gone, but what events!

The three of us have agreed to wait until we can talk with Elga again before taking any initiative.  Nonetheless we know what our roles may be: Jane has access to the fashion channels and some of the magazines in her business with influence here and the US, but also Japan, Russia, India and China.  Sarah has the market contacts to push some articles in the financial press.  As a reasonably successful writer, I will probably be in a position to talk to the “intelligent” press and TV.  Today we heard the news of Voyager 1 leaving the edge of the solar system.  We were moved by the news: the small spacecraft may never get much further, but it is a historical moment.

So vast is the Universe

Elga There is a bright wood fire on the beach with low seats around it. We make ourselves comfortable and listen to Elga. We can hear the sound of the waves and the crackling of the fire: I feel time moving extremely slowly and wonder once again at the science who brought us together here. Elga says:

“Let me explain first some of the things you need to know about us beyond what Gabrielle has already told you. Like you we are individuals organised in societies. Since we have been science-based – I think this is the right description –  for much longer than you have, we started contributing – perhaps the right word is influencing – our evolution a long time ago, say, back several tens of thousands of your millennia. We now live in collectives, what you would possibly call covens, although as individuals we still have autonomy. For example Gabrielle – not one but a cluster of us – is nearly on her own in your world, but all of us can follow and are aware of her actions and interactions on Earth. This way of life has led us early to take an interest in other societies and other intelligent species.” As Elga speaks I observe my companions: Sarah and Jane are listening intensely, Melissa’s looking at Sarah, smiling. Gabrielle appears deep in thought, eyes closed behind her thick glasses, and I guess she may be communicating with others in the coven.

“So it was, continues Elga, that some of us became specialised in space exploration. By this I mean not only geographical space exploration, but also the physics of space time, and the complex engineering techniques that eventually led us to what we can now achieve: near instantaneous transportation. We made many mistakes at the beginning: we lost people in ill-planned premature adventures, we got frustrated at not meeting anyone “out-there”, a feeling that some of your own scientists know well. After several millennia we understood that time was the issue: intelligent life is plentiful in the universe, but synchronicity – the wide enough overlap between two civilisations to permit communication and meaningful exchange is only a small probability. Again some Earth scientists have come to that conclusion too, but the consequences have not been drawn yet. So the project was born, and we called it the Search… We had to acquire the ability to travel through the entire space time continuum in order to meet others. At that point we influenced our biology again, and this led us to virtual immortality, although we no longer see it that way. This allowed us to colonise our own galaxy over about three millions of your years, and took us to yours, the Milky Way. Relatively recently we came to your world, to Earth. Sol and her system was noted for its relative friendliness to intelligent life. So when you finally appeared, we were not that surprised.” Elga paused, as she and Gabrielle appeared to be both somewhat absent. Minutes passed. Then Gabrielle appears to wake up. And Elga resumes her story: “The project has several aims, the most important is to support and observe – as innocuously as possible – civilisations with good prospects for lifespan. By this we mean societies that are capable of technological and scientific development with low risks, or manageable risks, of ruining their environment or sinking in warfare, and thus are probable candidates for some synchronicity. Another is the protection of our own species and our allies’ against any malevolent species that could become a danger to advanced intelligence, the “high risks” cases. There is third one, which is to prospect for past civilisations that may have perished, and research the reasons for their disappearance, what you would call cosmic archeology.” I am looking at Elga and she is looking at me, a direct gaze that signals to me that she, or “they”, is searching my mind. “I understand, I say, what you meant by “special roles”… You meant that we are to help you, maybe provide evidence, for the Search to assess whether we are in that category of potential risk to you…” There is another pause. Sarah and Jane are now looking towards me, and so is Melissa. Elga appears to be thinking, her classical face suddenly showing a range of feelings. It is Gabrielle who answers me: “Yes, Julian, you are witnesses, and also part of the evidence we need”.

Fermi’s Paradox

Singularity In the silence of the old house Gabrielle spoke.

I have grown very fond of you Julian, of your enthusiasms, your doubts, your aptitude to love the way you humans do, which is far superior – and how much more intriguing – to our intellectualised feelings. I wish those of my species, and we are legions, could see you, or Melissa, or Sarah, the way I see you now: creatures of infinite weakness, and yet so full of warmth and intelligence.

It was around 1950, at Los Alamos, that a group of your brightest physicists discussed the question of “us” – the “extraterrestrials”. Edward Teller, just fresh from working out the Hydrogen bomb, and Enrico Fermi, expressed the paradox in those terms: “they” should be everywhere by now – meaning intelligent space-faring civilisations – but, if so, where are they? Later Frank Drake expressed the question mathematically, the “Drake equation”.

Of course there are good reasons why space-faring is not all that simple. For a start actual distances, even merely within your galaxy, are immense. Then not all civilisations wish to colonise anyone: we were for a long time, and are still, determined not to disrupt any other intelligent life form, for their sake and ours. Yet the paradox is only a paradox for short-lived intelligent species. For us, who collectively live for millennia and are therefore near immortal, in your terms, the question is one of ethics, not physics. Of course as soon as one accepts the feasibility of inter-galactical travel the paradox itself disappears: among the billions of billions of star systems life abounds, and so does intelligence.

Once I explained all this to Melissa, who was still a child. I have shown you “pictures”, or rather, I invited you to take a glimpse, all the way to my “place”. There is no violation of physical laws, just a better formulation of them, what your most advanced scientists call quantum cosmogony. So now, I invite you to look around you. You are still on the edge of our galaxy, the one you call Andromeda, a neighbour of yours. You call yours the Milky Way, a name that puzzled us for a long time. Of course we had to see it as you do, for us to understand, at last. Your star is very much on the edge, at the periphery of your galaxy. At the centre of all spiral galaxies, the ones that are most welcoming to planets and life-spawning stars, like yours and ours, is the singularity you describe as “black-hole”.

They are the solution to the paradox. The singularities are, if you like, like teleports, just a little more difficult to “handle” than in your fiction. They are the gates to space travel, long distance. All space faring civilisations had to attain that knowledge, and the technology to use it, before considering their own solution to the “paradox”.

I see you are beginning to understand. The singularities are short cuts through the intimate structure of space-time. Mastering the mathematics necessary to exploit their properties took us hundreds of human millennia.

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