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Monday, July 29, 2013

Flora and fauna of the firmament—Part 2


An ongoing look at the life-forms that we might find on recently discovered exoplanets.


The Mysterious Activity on Super-Earth HD 97658 b

Purple night falls on the lone world circling the star HD 97658 some 70 light-years away. Under the blazing magenta daylight cast by this K-type main-sequence star, and during the frigid, 87-month-long indigo-dark nights, a system of pipelines grows, extending through the thick atmosphere and into the rocky soil. The mysterious conduits apparently connect somewhere, but Earthbound observers have not been able to determine what they carry, and why. Perhaps they funnel fuel—or maybe air or water.

A more speculative theory suggests it is an attempt by the builders, globular life-forms (pictured here), to develop a system of tubes—a version of the Internet. Although these beings appear highly intelligent, having developed an advanced technological civilzation, they have apparently and amazingly accomplished it without the ability to social network.

During twilight, the creatures emit a greenish glow
that seems to signify cocktail-hour-like festivities.
Supporting a complex society that, it is believed, has works far beyond human achievements, super-Earth HD 97658 b’s dominant life-form has created a truly alien culture. As on Earth, microscopic life here evolved into intelligence, had an industrial revolution but then took a divergent path into an existence deprived of Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine—even a blogosphere. Scientists remain baffled as to how they could have created a civilization that does not rely on continuous access to e-mail, texts podcasts and streaming video, thereby lacking the ability to tweet, Instagram, Pin-It, and blog. It has been suggested that because of this deprivation, their unchecked attention spans and ability to see in the long run have resulted in the completion of projects such as establishing unlimited renewable energy and an economic system that provides ample sustenance and health for all complete with a four-day work week and five-weeks paid vacation—and birthdays off, too.

HD 97658 b’s denizens also have an ongoing space program and have colonized neighboring star systems. Intercepted broadcasts also suggest they have a time-wasting tendency toward deep intellectual conversations and learning by reading detailed literary works that fill the void in a bleak world that does not know the joy of life-hacking, Google/Wikipedia searches, Angry Birds, Top 10 anything lists, blog rants, viral YouTube cat videos and 15-minute hashtag-based news cycles. The mystery of why this species has survived under such harsh conditions will remain, scientists say, until their approaching fleet of starships reaches Earth sometime around 2036. It is hoped that on arrival we will be able to offer our ability to gain instant gratification in exchange for whatever techno trinkets they may have to offer us, although it is hard to envision how giving away the secret of our Internet in exchange for something like star drive, teleportation or even the chance to barter for our freedom from annexation into their stark, sensory-deprived empire could get us the better end of the deal in such an exchange.



The diagram above depicts an interpretation of high-intensity laser signals picked up from the vicinity of the advancing fleet. Experts think it is an attempt to communicate via visual symbology. Linguistic and symbol analysis suggest they are attempting to diagram some kind of social network, a primitive analogue of "Liking" our civilization and humanity’s amazing accomplishment.

Flora and Fauna of the Firmament is a satirical collaboration featuring illustrations by Ken Silber and descriptions by Michael Battaglia. Cross-posted at Quicksilber and Beige Matter. Part 1 is here.

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