Intelligent life? Not here, maybe elsewhere

Have you heard about the interstellar object that appeared by the sun a year ago? It disappeared from view in January.

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid, Oumuamua, as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. (Reuters)

No, that isn’t the lead up to a joke. It’s the opening to an article about the search for intelligent life — purple life — in the universe.

At first scientists assumed it was a comet, then an asteroid, before acknowledging that it was unlike anything they had ever detected before — 400 metres long by 40 metres wide, tumbling end over end and travelling at speeds of up to 315,000 kilometres an hour.

Researchers in Hawaii gave it a romantic name, Oumuamua, meaning “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past.”

But it took two Harvard University professors to make it famous, via a new paper which suggests that the unexplained object might be some sort of alien probe.

The evidence to support this notion is a bit scant, but the search for extraterrestrial life has always required a certain amount of imagination.

Take, for example, a paper published late last month in the International Journal of Astrobiology, which theorizes that the reason we haven’t yet found alien life is that we’re looking for little green men instead of purple ones.

The study, by two American microbiologists, suggests that the first forms of life on Earth might have been a shade of lavender, because they captured solar energy via a molecule called retinal, which made both the organisms and whole planet appear purple. Something we might be missing in the cosmos because we’re busy looking for the “red edge” reflection of far-away worlds filled with green plant life.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

If the probe is looking for intelligent life, it sure won’t find it in my office. Today while doing rewrites of my next release, entitled Constellation XXI, I made a boo boo on a scale only possible on a computer. Since Constellation XXI is the name of a spaceship, I was going to do a search to replace all instances of the name with an italicized version of the name.

BUT —

I mistakenly replaced all instances of the name with nothing. Nada. A blank space. A void. Which is, of course going to take a lot of time to fix, even though I have earlier versions to refer to.

Ain’t computers wonderful?

Well, yes they are. As a dude who wrote his first book longhand, I know darned well they’re fantastic. But still . . .

What about you? If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the dumbest computer mistake you’ve ever made?

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4 comments

  1. Diane Burton · · Reply

    Ai-yi-yi. That’s a big boo-boo. Computers are wonderful. Usually. Not in this instance. Good luck finding all the blanks.

    1. I’m working at that right now. Sigh.

  2. Oh, so many dumb mistakes. Computers really make it easy…

    This isn’t related to my writing, but I spent all day working on a PowerPoint presentation. The file was stored on my temp drive. And my computer was configured to clear the temp drive upon rebooting.

    Yup… gone with the wind! Well, gone with the reboot.

    Good luck!

    1. One of the things that computers do so well is increase our ability to make mistakes.

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