Strange New Worlds, by Ray Jayawardhana

Newtonian numbers set to cosmic lyres
Whelmed us in whirling worlds we could not know,
And by the imagined floods of our desires
The voice of Sirens gave us vertigo.
–Richard Wilbur, “Lamarck Elaborated”

This book from last year is already being eclipsed by new discoveries. What were blurs are becoming clear. The Doppler effect and spectral analysis allow deduction of the nature of other suns and their orbiting bodies. A planet that transits its star can be detected with patient work–like observing a gnat in front of a car’s headlight miles away.

The Galileo spacecraft returned to our vicinity on its looping way to Jupiter in 1990, and the technicians had it strain for signs of life here. Methane and oxygen react to form water and carbon dioxide, so an excess of free methane in the presence of oxygen indicates that living things are blasting it out. The large oceans reflected light to make themselves known. Chlorophyll appeared in the spectra, and radio signals were likely of artificial origin. These would be the signatures to read from other worlds.

As things progress, one day we might be looking and listening in as thousand-year-old light and signals arrive, and we can eavesdrop on the long-gone goings-on.

Radio Dish, Raisting, Bavaria

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