You may be despondent over the loss of the House of Representatives to Democrats, or in despair that the GOP was able to keep the Senate, but cheer up: We may have just been visited by aliens.
You might think, because lots of science fiction leads you to, that the appearance of extraterrestrial life forms in our lives would come as a sudden, dramatic, but also no-doubt surprise: there you were, watching the Flintstones, when all of a sudden a humongous metallic insect-looking spaceblob appeared on the horizon and your life changed forever. That sort of thing.
It’s natural to think that way because dramatic things by the very nature of their being dramatic often yield sudden changes. That’s why sporting events are successes at entertainment, that’s why Election Night can be such a heart-pounding, anxiety-riven extravaganza.
But lots of times it can take a while to recognize the fuller significance.
This happened to me once: I was watching a Yankees-Red Sox game one evening when I fell asleep on the couch. When I fell asleep the Yankees were in the lead. This was the fourth game of the American League Championship Series, on Oct. 17, 2004, and when I fell asleep the Yankees were about to win their fourth-straight game and sweep the series.
But when I woke up it was to a completely different world. In this new world the Red Sox had come from behind to win the game in extra innings. They proceeded to take the next three games and win the series. They then proceeded to win the World Series in four straight from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Before I fell asleep, the Yankees were the greatest team in baseball history, and perhaps the greatest team in any sport of the 20th century. Since I woke up, the Red Sox, also winners of this year’s World Series, have become the champions of this still relatively new 21st century while the Yankees have been relegated to Palookaville.
That was some nap.
Now, of course, I didn’t know what was ahead once I woke up, only that something dramatic had happened, so it took a while to recognize the significance of the turnaround that had taken place while I was snoozing. You could probably say the same about the recent mid-term election. We know something dramatic happened, but it’s going to take some time to recognize the consequences. Thanks to the Democratic takeover of the House majority, we now have restored checks and balances that are supposed to be healthy for democracy, but we aren’t likely to see that healthy part, if it even comes around, right away. Nor will we be right off the bat able to accurately gauge the impact on the 2020 presidential election. So the moment that for the moment we call this past Tuesday is destined to expand in its significance.
You may think I forgot about the aliens. Just before the dramatic moment of the mid-term election, an abstract came out about this object that was the first interstellar object discovered in the Solar System. The name sounds like the woman who left the White House and then wrote a scandalous account of her experience, but the interstellar object is not Omarosa but ‘Oumuamua — the name is of Hawaiian origin and means a messenger from afar arriving first, according to NASA. You’ve probably seen pictures of it; it looks like a cigar traveling through space
The people who wrote the piece are actual scientific people, not like those who wrote “Independence Day.” They are from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Sections of the abstract, titled “Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain ‘Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?” include eye-strain-inducing equations that look like hieroglyphics, and there are also charts. So you could say it’s tough sledding. But then you run into a sentence like this: “… one possibility is that ‘Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment ...”
Uh-huh. And this: “Alternatively, a more exotic scenario is that ‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”
Holy cow! as they probably do not say in scientific circles, or, eureka! as maybe they do. Anyway, there was a lot of huff and puff following this news, which I initially encountered online at CNN, with a fair share of doubters and doubts even from the authors — “most probably, our paper is wrong and there’s a more simple explanation,” one of them said.
Probably, but my interest is still piqued by the thought that even if this isn’t it, when it does happen, or if it does, alien encounter will be like this, a moment that we recognize as something but don’t fully recognize for its significance, like in a baseball game or an election.
At least when it comes to aliens, I’d like to be awake.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or email@example.com.
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