Saturday, May 23, 2015

BM 6 Lunar Driver of Evolution

This part continues the discussion regarding the importance of the moon in Earth's history.  We have pretty well settled the artificial nature of the whole remarkable regime itself.   This identifies some of the more obvious accelerants along the way.

This is a good point to discuss time scales.   I suspect that the decision to terraform Earth took perhaps as recently as two hundred thousand years ago.  Actual preparation was likely quite fast and entailed producing a massive gravity device for the job.  This was meant to stay in place.  It may even have been managed from a space habitat in Phobos and uses material from the crust of Mars where the evidence conforms to all this.

This engine was then deployed back in time via a wormhole to set up the Earth Moon system.  It is also reasonable that successive interventions also took place through Earth's history of a far less dramatic scale.  We already understand the Pleistocene nonconformity as one such.   As well the ending of the dinosaur age likely was timed to allow templates for humanity to be ready 200,000 years ago.

This also means that another option hold true.   The Moon retains its own gravity engine and can maintain it position by minor adjustment throughout the last four billion years.  It likely ripped half the crust off the earth by descending to the surface and applying  gravitational changes to the earth's crust or alternatively the crust of the earth .had its gravity neutralized while the nearby moon provided attraction.  The crust then flowed up to the moon to provide cladding.  At that point the moon then moved to its present location by the tidal process described or by its own choice.

I suspect that this also happened to Mars as well to provide building material. 


Comins examined every aspect of the Earth and its relationship with the Moon to build a picture of a similar planet, at the same distance from the Sun and which was the same age as Earth. The only thing that was different is that the Moon did not exist, but the alterations this absence would make to the Earth were dramatic. 

Nick Hoffman suggests that the very nature of the Earth’s surface would have been entirely different if the material that makes up the Moon had not been removed from the Earth’s crust. However, Comins’ starting point is to assume that the surface details of the Earth would be roughly the same as they are now. 

One of the greatest differences in terms of the early, developing Earth would have been tides. Comins makes the point that a Moon ten times as close would have led to daily lunar tides that would have been a thousand times greater than they are today. Bearing in mind that it is generally accepted that the infant Earth was spinning about its centre every six hours, this means that tsunami-strength tides would have been hurtling across the Earth every three hours! Not only were these tides more frequent, but, being so very much larger, they would have crashed many hundreds of kilometres inland – and with tremendous destructive force. 

The mechanism that has slowed the Earth’s spin is directly related to tides and the Moon is not the only body responsible for them because part of the ocean tides on the Earth are responsive to the Sun. But the Moon is much closer and has done far more to slow the Earth than has the more distant Sun. Comins estimates that without the Moon, the Earth day would be only eight hours in length and solar generated tides alone would be less than a third of what they are today. 

The immediate implication has great ramifications on the possibility of evolving life. At present many scientists accept that DNA, the fundamental building block of all life, occurred spontaneously in Earth’s early oceans. We will have much more to say about DNA later, but for the moment we will accept the general view that it first appeared in the early oceans of the Earth, a legacy of what is known as the ‘primeval soup – a specific blend of water and chemicals upon which life depends. 

The massive tides created by the infant Moon would have caused erosion on a scale quite beyond our experience today. Millions upon millions of tonnes of land would have been pulverized and swept out to sea, then widely distributed and eventually settled on the seabed. This process liberated vast amounts of minerals into the oceans – minerals that emerging life simply could not do without. Presumably a Moonless world would still have had weather patterns, including rain, so erosion would have taken place but on a tiny scale compared with what happened when the Moon was so much closer to the Earth. This means that life would have taken much longer to gain a foothold, if it had managed to do so at all. 

We have no problem with the concept that life first developed and flourished in the ocean, but there had to be a time at which it migrated from its salty environs and learned to survive on dry land. It is possible that insect life took the leap first but the fish ancestors of amphibians and reptiles followed and between them they eventually gave way to all land-living animals in the world today. 

Life is always evolving to harmonize with the prevailing environment and to capitalize on new niches that are not already being exploited. Around 400 million years ago one such area of potential exploitation was rock-pools. Fish are accidentally left behind in rock pools with every retreating tide, both then and now. In most cases it doesn’t matter because the next high tide will free the fish again, back into the sea. However, if a fish is isolated in a rock pool during a particularly high tide, it may have to survive for weeks before it will be liberated. Fish that found themselves in this situation would die unless they somehow managed to get back to the ocean by moving over dry land and also managing to breathe out of the water. 

It seems that some fish did find ways to drag themselves across the sand, at the same time changing enough physically to take gulps of air whilst out of the water. These fish found that dry land offered some rich pickings and any animal that learned to live, even temporarily, on dry land, would be well rewarded. Gradually, and over a long period of time, fins that pushed the fish over sand became stouter until the became legs and the fish in question ceased to be fish at all. 

Since the Sun also creates tides it isn’t out of the question that fish would ultimately have left the oceans, even if lunar tides had not been present. However, the waves in question would have been significantly smaller and their value in terms of depositing detritus much more limited. What is quite clear is that life would also have been very much slower in developing to a stage advanced enough to leave the oceans had it not been for the lunar tides, if it could ever have happened at all. When we take on board the prospect of an Earth with a variable obliquity, no plate tectonics and such a dizzying spin about its axis, the prognosis for life of any sort on Comins’ Solon is not good. 

Fortunately for us the Moon was present and stamped its authority on the developing Earth in a number of different but equally crucial ways. It helped to create many differing habitats, which in turn engendered biodiversity. Most experts believe that it was biodiversity that led to intelligent life becoming possible. Evolution tries and retries many different models. Animals that were ideally suited to their environment flourished on the Earth, only to fall by the wayside when conditions changed and they could not adapt. 

Giant reptiles, that we generically call ‘dinosaurs’, ruled the Earth for millions of years until these impressive and diverse creatures vanished from the face of the planet. Whether as a result of some cataclysm, such as a huge meteorite strike, or thanks to some other misfortune, species that had flourished for eons were wiped out astonishingly quickly, but life itself remained untouched. Such was the multiplicity of species already inhabiting the Earth that some were bound to overcome the problems that put paid to thousands of others at a stroke. 

One of the animals that did survive whatever circumstances put paid to the dinosaurs was a tiny shrew-like creature that occupied the vacant niche left by the demise of the reptiles. However, it was different to the reptiles because it gave birth to live young and suckled its infants with milk created from its own body. These first mammals then evolved to diversify and spread across the planet where they have been adaptable enough to survive and flourish. 

Tree-dwelling species became monkeys and some of these creatures came down from the trees and began to move across the open savannah, most likely created by yet more climatic changes. Down on the ground these anthropoids were vulnerable. If they were going to survive they were going to need something that had not been specifically necessary to earlier creatures. 

They needed bigger brains. 

Evolution responded and a whole family of hominids was the result, of which Homo sapiens is now the only surviving example. But despite our general sense of specialness, recent events point to our solus position as being surprisingly recent. 

One of the greatest breakthroughs for humans was the control of fire; but the earliest known evidence of regular fire using is unequivocally attributed to our larger-brained cousins, the Neanderthals, some 200,000 years ago. We coexisted with these people until they finally disappeared in southern Europe around 25,000 years ago. Science had believed that an earlier hom inid, Homo erectus, had become extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago, until the mid-1990s when remains found on the island of Java in Indonesia were found to indicate that they too were around until 25,000 years ago. 

Both these alternative humans disappeared at a time when midsummer’s day fell around June 21st in the northern hemisphere – just as it does today. The dates on which astronomical events such as the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes fall, move backwards through the calendar by one day (around one Megalithic degree) every seventy-one years. This is due to the long, slow wobble of the Earth on its axis, known as ‘the precession of the equinoxes’ which takes 25,920 years for each cycle. 

This movement through the calendar has no effect on people at all, but it is interesting to note that a recent discovery suggests we were not alone as a species as recently as 13,000 years ago, when the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere fell in late December; the exact opposite of where it is right now. 

The discovery of what is claimed to be a previously unknown branch of hominid occurred on the island of Flores, near Java, and was announced to the world in 2004. Remains have been found of a dwarf hominid, named Homo floresiensis, which was only as tall as a modern three-year-old with a facial morphology very different to Homo sapiens. Strangely, these miniature people had mini-brains yet they produced relatively sophisticated tools. 

Not only have we recently shared the planet with other hominids, it now seems that the ancestors of today’s Europeans may have interbred with other types of human in the not too distant past. 

As part of a large-scale gene-mapping programme, researchers at deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland, were looking at the families of nearly 30,000 Icelanders. They found that women who had an inversion on chromosome 17 had, on average, 3.5 per cent more children than women who did not. Kari Stefansson, deCODE’s chief executive, considered this to be a very significant impact in terms of an evolutionary timescale. It is possible to roughly date the origin of this phenomenon by counting the number of genetic differences that have accumulated in it compared to a normal DNA sequence. It turns out that this element has so many differences that it must have occurred about three million years ago. Which is long before modern humans evolved. 

Stefansson has suggested that this element of the DNA might have been native to some other species of early human and came to our own species around 50,000 years ago. He added: ‘There aren’t all that many ways you can explain it except by the reintroduction into the modern human population… 

That raises the possibility it was reintroduced by cross-breeding with earlier species.’22 

But as these other humans disappeared, Homo sapiens developed a growing intelligence that allowed us to begin to manipulate the environment in which we live. The great breakthrough was the development of agriculture – a move that allowed civilization to emerge. 

With civilization came the ability to count and ultimately a way of expressing language in a written form. Knowledge that had once been laboriously passed from one generation to the next could now be stored and retrieved from places outside the human brain. Intelligence also created technology and a great desire to understand the workings of the world and the cosmos of which it was part. But this curiosity began long before we sent representatives of our species to walk on the Moon. It had been present for more than 30,000 years, when the first lunar calendars were created. It is almost certain that after the Sun, the Moon was the most important heavenly body to captivate our species. 

How little those cave dwellers, who scratched their knowledge of the lunar cycle onto animal bones and antlers, the lunar disc that so captivated them, the Earth would probably be a lifeless rock, silently spinning around the Sun, like the inferno of Venus and the frozen wastes of Mars. 

‘Rather than transmitting radio messages, extraterrestrial civilizations would find it far more efficient to send us a “message in a bottle”, some kind of physical message inscribed on matter. And it could be waiting for us in our own backyard.’ 

Professor Christopher Rose of Rutgers University, New Jersey & Gregory Wright, a physicist with Antiope Associates, New Jersey 

The idea that intelligent life forms might exist elsewhere in the cosmos is a comparatively recent interest for humanity. For thousands of years and across countless cultures, it was more or less accepted that anything dwelling outside our own immediate environment inevitably fell into the classification of a god or a servant of the gods, such as the saints, angels or seraphim that inhabit the heaven of the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Even after the telescope appeared, around the year 1600, the Catholic Church in particular was not keen to have its dogmas regarding the nature of the Earth and its relationship with space tampered with in any way. In Christian doctrine, the Sun and the Moon have both been directly created by God, as have the stars and planets. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, lay down the order in which God created the observable cosmos and anyone who seemed to be throwing a spanner in the works, for example Galileo (1564–1642) who suggested that the Sun, and not the Earth, was the centre of the solar system, was liable to be severely censured. Galileo was forced to recant his heretical views and was condemned to perpetual house arrest but was probably lucky to escape with his life. 

Even before Galileo’s time, thinking people were not fooled by the Church’s account of the solar system. The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) understood what he was seeing at the time of a lunar eclipse: ‘The church says the earth is flat, but I know it is round for I have seen its shadow on the moon and I have more faith in a shadow than the church.’ 

Only the effects of the Renaissance and Church reformations across Europe broke the hold of old church dogma. By the late seventeenth century, with telescopes proliferating and almost anyone able to take a close-up view of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars, the cat was truly out of the bag and the genuine nature of the solar system in particular was beginning to become apparent. 

Since Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species in the mid-nineteenth century it has become clear that life on Earth has evolved over billions of years from the first single-cell entities through to all of the creatures in the world today. Darwin’s ideas were argued over fiercely at the time, but the massing evidence from palaeontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and many other fields gradually established evolution’s truth beyond reasonable doubt. 

It is ironic, therefore, that the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, the United States, has large numbers of ‘Creationists’ – people who still cling to the teachings of the mediaeval Church. They are currently trying to persuade politicians, judges and the general public that evolution is an unproven myth cobbled together by atheists. They lobby for their ideas, such as ‘intelligent design’, to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. Their proponents admit that their aim is to keep the scriptures of the Christian religion taught in school as the word of God, rather than a collection of ancient Jewish texts. 

Their arguments against Darwin’s concept of ‘natural selection’ are not well reasoned or based on any normal principle of modern science. These people appear to be intellectually stuck, hundreds of years in the past, at a time before masses of new data became available. However, it is interesting to note that academics once thought like this too. Dr John Lightfoot, the Vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge was not frightened of being precise about the origin of the entire +Universe when he said in 1642: 

‘Heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created together, in the same instant, and clouds of water... This work took place and man was created... on the 17th of September 3928 BC at nine o’clock in the morning.’ 

Poor Dr Lightfoot seems to have been ignorant of even the most basic facts of science. He clearly did not realize that there is no such thing as nine o’clock in the morning because every hour of the day exists simultaneously on our revolving planet; it just depends where you are standing. Happily, the very year that Lightfoot made this statement, a baby boy was born in the village of Woolsthorpe in Leicestershire. The infant’s name was Isaac Newton and he went on to become Cambridge University’s most famous professor and a man that would create a leap forward in humankind’s understanding of the Universe. 

Newton however, did not dismiss the role of God as he wrote on Judaeo-Christian prophecy, the decipherment of which he saw as being essential to the understanding of God. His book on the subject espoused his view that Christianity had gone astray in 325 AD, when the crumbling Roman Empire declared that Jesus Christ was not a man but an aspect of the very deity that had built the Universe. 

Today we have the benefit of masses of data from all kinds of disciplines that point to the Earth being nearly five billion years old, but many creationists frequently quote the chronology produced by James Ussher who was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in the early seventeenth century. His analysis, based on his interpretation of the King James Bible, allowed him to confidently declare that the creation of the world occurred in 4004 BC. 

Such a dating raises all kinds of problems, from fitting in the obvious existence of dinosaurs, for example, to the fact that the city of Jericho, near to the River Jordan, has been continuously occupied for 10,000 years. (Interestingly, the origin of the name ‘Jericho’ is Canaanite and means ‘the Moon’). 

There are creationist websites that put forward ‘evidence’ that their writers believe demonstrates that people and dinosaurs lived at the same time – presumably around the time that the Megalithic Yard was being introduced! But these are not fringe ideas as there are large numbers of people who believe that geological time is a myth. According to a survey run by the Gallup Organization in 1999, the majority of Americans educated up to high school level or less, believe that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years or so. And a worrying forty-four per cent of college graduates believe the same. 

An international research team led by scientists at the University of British Columbia sees the creation as being a little earlier than Dr Lightfoot and Archbishop Ussher. Professor Harvey Richer, the study’s principal investigator, confirmed previous research that sets the age of the Universe at thirteen to fourteen billion years. The team measured the brightness and temperatures of white dwarf stars (the burned-out remnants of the earliest stars which formed in our galaxy) because they are ‘cosmic clocks’ that get fainter as they cool in a very predictable way. 

More recent calculations, by Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University and Brian Chaboyer at Dartmouth College, published in the journal Science, put the Universe at anything up to twenty billion years old. 

Creationists often try to invalidate all of evolution by pointing to science’s current inability to explain the origin of life. John Rennie, the editor in chief of Scientific American has countered this by saying: ‘…even if life on Earth turned out to have a non-evolutionary origin (for instance, if alien’s introduced the first cells billions of years ago), evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless microevolutionary and macro-evolutionary studies.’23 

It is true that, whilst science can explain how life has evolved on Earth, the way it all began is a complete mystery. And, as far as we know, the Earth is the only location where life exists. 

In the nineteenth century some people speculated that there might be life, or even people, living on the Moon. It is now certain that no natural life could exist on the Moon, which is a barren world constantly irradiated by the Sun and lacking in both available surface water and a sufficiently dense atmosphere to support life. There was a more recent time when Venus, the second planet out from the Sun, seemed a potential candidate for some type of life because its dense clouds hid the surface from view so that, for all we knew, it might be as green and verdant as that of the Earth. But as we now know, it is furnace hot and continually subjected to sulphuric acid rain. As a result, the chances for life seem almost nonexistent. 

Mars is certainly cooler and there may be water existing near its polar regions. At the time of writing this book, some people are still clinging to the possibility that there could be some sort of primitive life on Mars either now, or at some time in its remote past. If it does exist at all, life on Mars is likely to be extremely simple. Other planets in the solar system, being gaseous giants in the main, are even less likely to support any sort of life as we know it. 

By far the majority of experts now accept that if advanced life of any sort does exist in places other than the Earth, we will almost certainly have to look deep into interstellar space to find it. Our solar system is only one of many that undoubtedly exist, even in our own corner of space. Astronomers have identified suns that have planets orbiting them and it is estimated there are a thousand million stars in our own galaxy, any one of which could possess a planetary system where life might have evolved and flourished. Beyond our galaxy there are countless others, so it may be wrong to think that only our tiny little blue planet, amidst such a proliferation of planet-bearing suns, has produced a thinking species such as our own. 

But as far as we know right now, we are alone. 

Once the sheer size of space was ascertained it also became apparent that even if there are hundreds or thousands of intelligent species out there, the chances of us actually encountering them in any way is quite small. Distance is a problem but it isn’t the only one. One of the greatest stumbling blocks could be time itself. In order for us to communicate with another advanced species, it would have to have reached at least our level of sophistication either at the same time as us or shortly before. Although humanity has created at least a couple of probes that are presently leaving the environs of our own solar system, it will be decades, or maybe centuries, before we embark on interstellar space travel to any significant extent. Even if we do, the answers we are looking for, in terms of finding other intelligent beings, are likely to be protracted. 

The thought of any spacecraft travelling faster than the speed of light remains in the realms of science fiction. If, as Einstein proposed, light speed is as fast as anything can ever travel, it would take many years merely to reach the nearest star. To go beyond our own galaxy, the Milky Way, would seem Impossible because the next nearest place we could visit is the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy which has ‘only’ a few million stars and is a staggering 80,000 light years away. The next nearest galaxy is the Large Magellanic Cloud and that is 170,000 light years distant. 

Setting out to actually meet our intergalactic or extragalactic cousins seems to be a hopeless idea, even if we knew where they were located. So does this mean we can never say hello to any of them? Not necessarily. If we cannot greet them face-to-face, it might be possible to listen to them. 

Much of the energy so created streams out into space as electromagnetic radiation. There are many wavelengths of this radiation, some of which are familiar to us in our daily lives. The full panoply of this radiation is known as the ‘electromagnetic spectrum’. The shortest of the wavelengths are those we call ‘gamma waves’. At the other end of the electromagnetic spectrum are extremely long radio waves, which we harness every day. Visible light is also a component of the electromagnetic spectrum, as are the microwaves used daily in many cookers. 

In fact we are getting radio messages from all parts of the cosmos all the time. These are emitted by suns and other much stranger bodies within our own galaxy and beyond it, as a result of the physical processes taking place within them. Electromagnetic radiation travels across the near vacuum of space at the speed of light. Once it was realized that we could listen in on the processes taking place in our stellar backyard and beyond, radio astronomy was born. 

In 1931 an American engineer by the name of Karl Jansky, who was working for the Bell Telephone Laboratories, was conducting experiments into interference that was taking place across certain radio wavelengths. He built a succession of aerials and managed to isolate three distinct sources of radio interference or static. Firstly he could detect local thunderstorms; and secondly, storms taking place at a greater distance. However, there was a third source of interference that was steady and always present which he couldn’t, at first, identify. By moving his aerials, Jansky was eventually able to isolate the source of this third form of radio interference. To his own and many other people’s great surprise it was coming from within the Milky Way and in fact it originated at the very centre of our own galaxy. 

Like many controversial discoveries Jansky’s were ignored for some years. But not everyone was sceptical. Reading about Jansky’s observations, in 1937 another radio engineer, Grote Reber, built his own aerial, though this one would have been more familiar to a modern radio astronomer because it was a dish. Reber also picked up the strange ‘messages’ from space. 

Interest in the signals from space gradually increased. In 1942 a British Army officer, J S Hay, made the first observations of radio emissions from our own Sun, whilst working on ways to jam German radio signals. Once the Second World War was over, radio astronomy really took off and within a few years discrete signals from all parts of space were being received. Ultimately a background radio source was recognized that could not be isolated to a particular point in space and it was finally realized, in the 1960s, that this was the signal left by the Big Bang – the very birth of the Universe itself. 

Of course, all the signals that were being received were perfectly natural in origin. But towards the end of the 1950s it began to occur to a number of those involved in radio astronomy that if any species out there in space was already more advanced than we were, it might well make use of radio waves in order to let us know it existed. Most radio signals received from space can be readily identified and even those that proved to be a puzzle at first have been shown to have a natural origin. But if an advanced species actively wanted to send a message, it would not be difficult for it to use a type of radio signal that could ot be confused with that created by any natural phenomena – for example, one containing an obvious mathematical formula. 

In 1961, when the ‘race for space’ had fired the imagination of a generation, a new organization came into existence. It was called SETI – ‘the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence’. SETI was primarily the brainchild of an enthusiastic young electrical engineer turned radio astronomer by the name of Frank Drake, a 31-year-old engineer who had become interested in radio astronomy whilst at Harvard Graduate School. 

Drake was fascinated by the prospect of radio astronomy being used to identify other intelligent species in the cosmos and thought that we should be actively listening in for any message that might be transmitted from deep space. Together with another interested scientist, J Peter Pearman, an officer on the Space Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Drake arranged the first SETI conference. 

Anxious to show the world just how likely extraterrestrial life surely was, Drake came up with what is now known as the ‘Drake Equation’. This reached the conclusion that there must be many thousands of intergalactic civilizations capable of creating and sending radio messages across space. 

The idea of SETI was immediately popular with the public and for a while NASA had some involvement. During the 1960s and ’70s, NASA’s contribution was fairly low-key, but in 1992 nasa initiated a much more formal SETI programme. Unfortunately, less than a year later, the United States Congress cancelled the funding and NASA, reluctantly, pulled out of the SETI research programme. This certainly wasn’t the end of the story because a proportion of the intended NASA research was taken over by the non-profit-making SETI Institute and by an associated body, the SETI League. 

SETI has now enlisted the help and support of people from around the globe. Many computer users are regularly sent packages of information received by SETI, in order that it can be analyzed during computer down time. Millions of individuals are involved in what is known as the SETI@home project at the present time. 

Exactly where in the electromagnetic spectrum we should be listening for deliberately created messages from the stars was ecided in 1959. Phillip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi, two young physicists at Cornell University in the United States had co-operated to submit an article to the prestigious science journal, Nature, which appeared in September 1959. It was entitled ‘Searching for Interstellar Communications’. When trying to ascertain which part of the electromagnetic spectrum to monitor for alien signals, Morrison and Cocconi ultimately opted for a frequency of 1420MHz. Not only does thisfrequency fall in a very ‘quiet’ part of the available spectrum, it also represents the emission frequency of the most common element in the Universe, which is hydrogen. Morrison and Cocconi believed that any intelligent species would realize these two facts and so would therefore be most likely to transmit a greeting at or around this frequency. 

Some promising messages have been received across the last three decades but, in the end, all of them turned out to be natural phenomena. Space can supply some surprisingly ‘ordered’ signals. Rapidly spinning objects in space known as ‘pulsars’ are a good case in question, so SETI experts are extremely careful and also deeply sceptical when any apparent ‘letter from the stars’ is announced. 

One of the greatest problems for SETI, or indeed anyone trying to pick up a message from space, is knowing exactly what to expect. It is certain that any species sending such a message will be in advance of us technologically because if the message received comes from deep space it must have taken thousands or even millions of years to reach us. The culture that sent it might, by the time it is received, have disappeared, advanced even further or simply become bored with the whole notion. All we can do is to take an educated guess and suppose that for any species there will be commonality in terms of the irrefutable laws of physics. 

We may receive a logically repeating mathematical sequence such as pi or a list of prime numbers, it is simply impossible to know. There are sceptics around who suggest that the whole process of looking for such a message is destined to fail, if only because other intelligent species out in space may be so different to us that there would be no points of contact recognizable on both sides. In other words, they may be trying to contact us right now and we simply cannot understand the message. 

By the summer of 2004 we were already beginning to reach our own conclusions about how an intelligent species from elsewhere might have already contacted us – humanity simply had not recognized the fact yet. Serendipity being what it is, an article appeared in the August 2004 edition of New Scientist. It was written by Paul Davies, a scientist at The Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University, Sydney. We found it pleasing that a respected scientist was publicly discussing the idea that an alien culture may have put a message intended for us in place many millions of years ago: a message, that Professor Davies also likens to the plot of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

Whilst congratulating SETI for its efforts to track down incoming messages from space, Paul Davies makes the suggestion that to try and contact humanity by way of radio signals might prove to be fairly unreliable for any alien species far away. He points out that the problem of ‘timing’ might make radio contact difficult, if not impossible. No matter how many such intelligent societies there might be, the chance of them transmitting during the short time slot during which we have been listening is very remote. Is it not possible, Davies asks, whether such a culture, probably immeasurably older than our own, may have conceived of a much more reliable way to let us know of its existence? 

Might it not have opted for a method of communication that was not dependent upon transmitting signals for many millions of years in the hope that we, or someone like us, had just evolved the ability to decipher messages in the form of radio waves? Would it not be more likely that our intergalactic cousins would have chosen something much more timeless? 

This suggestion, when we read it near the start of Davies’ article, made us sit upright and pay attention because we were already asking ourselves the same question. Davies goes on to suggest that, rather than radio messages, a far more reliable way for any alien species to contact us would be to leave artefacts in the vicinity of planets likely to spawn intelligent life that, given sufficient advancement on the part of such a developing species, it could not fail to recognize. 

Then we came across yet more heavyweight scientists with similar, highly logical, thought. 

Professor Christopher Rose of Rutgers University in New Jersey and Gregory Wright, a physicist with Antiope Associates also in New Jersey, have stated that the transmission of a radio signal by an extraterrestrial civilization, that would probably have to be detected 10,000 light years away, does not make sense. They suggest that it would be far more efficient to send us some kind of physical message inscribed on physical matter – a kind of ‘message in a bottle’. And, they believe, such a message could already be waiting for us in our own backyard.24 

Rose observed that: ‘If energy is what you care about, it’s tremendously more efficient to toss a rock.’ Once radio signals pass us by they are gone for ever, so aliens would have to beam signals continuously as we have only had radio for a miniscule fraction of our existence as an advanced species. 

We had to ask ourselves, what if that physical object was the Moon and the information is there for us to see – once we understand the vocabulary? 

If the Moon does hold a message, it would be exactly what Paul Davies called a ‘set and forget’ technique that would survive for millions or even billions of years. Any conventional sort of physical structure, no matter how impressive, would eventually crumble under geological forces, especially on a very active planet such as our own. It turns out that the possibilities for a ‘letter from the stars’ that can survive eons are actually very limited indeed. In the end such a ‘physical’ message needs to be either extremely large or extremely small – and as we were to discover, perhaps both. 

We had already uncovered a wealth of published academic material that points to the Moon being the single most important factor in the development and nurturing of complex life forms on the planet Earth. Quite simply, if the Earth is thought of as an incubator for life – the Moon is the carefully programmed machine that monitors and stabilizes the process. A real life-support system. 

This may be a wonderful coincidence of epic proportions, or it could be yet another miracle to ignore as an inevitable consequence of the ‘Anthropic Principle’.

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