Astronomical aside

“Scientists” (you know what I mean) have told “correspondents” for Rupert Murdoch’s Sun that “mysterious signals” have now been received from a source inside our Milky Way, just fourteen thousand light years distant. We had previously received them from farther afield. They last only a millisecond, but an “Italian astrophysicist” (I hope it wasn’t the one we employ at the Vatican) said that this latest could be traced to a “Magnetar.” This is the imaginative name for stars reputed to have powerful magnetic fields.

Perhaps we will send it a link to the pope’s Twitter account, in return. I’m for supplementing this with Doktor Fauxi, in case they have coronavirus issues. (Previously, I’d have been content to send him to Mars, with Elon Musk driving the Uber.) I gather that early instalments of I Love Lucy, launched by radio-wave in 1951, have yet to arrive.

And I fear they may never, owing to an amplification problem. For it seems the Magnetar in question had to explode with the power of a million Suns, to get that brief radio message out. Imagine what it would take to extend this longer than the millisecond to, say, the full audio track of a television skit, then add the visuals in black & white. Colour seems almost out of the question.

On second thought, why not keep Elon Musk? At only a few billion dollars of taxpayer subsidy, he’s probably an entertainment bargain. But Doktor Fauxi has cost at least a trillion, for a more boring show. There comes a point, according to a businessman I once met, when you have to cut your losses.

Thanks to my education in very backward, low-budget schools in Asia, I learnt to count. This puts me at an advantage over the average North American post-doctorate, who only knows that “black lives matter.” With arithmetic comes a certain apprehension of scale, though let me add, not always a happy one. In my morning tours of our planetary meejah (not a million Suns; at most a couple dozen) I am daily boggled. Do the people who write these things have any idea what they are saying? Or how long their logical leaps extend?

From a millisecond of incomprehensible starburst, to “intelligent” life elsewhere in our galaxy, is such a leap. I could wish that, like a motorcycle across the Grand Canyon, it had not even been attempted. But my wishes are not being consulted on this planet, and see where it has got you.