OUT OF THE SKY
During the last week of August 1983, three large chunks of ice fell out of the sky in England. Of course, a good many others may have fallen undetected but these narrowly missed hitting people. The first smashed a huge hole in a garage roof at Hitchin, Herts. The second fell beside a three-year-old girl playing in her garden at Ampthill, Beds., and a day or so later a third block, described as the “size of a carrier bag,” smashed down in a garden in Highland Drive, Bushey, Herts., near two boys. One mother said, “It came down with a real thud, then sprayed ice all over the place. If it had hit the boys it would have killed them.”
The Civil Aviation Authority is unrelenting in its explanation: “It’s likely to be either galley or toilet water which has formed on the outside of the aircraft. When the aircraft flies through a freak warm area at high altitude the ice falls away.”
THE SEARCH FOR E.T.
(1987) What does the search for extraterrestrial life entail? To some people it’s the pits. When NASA sought $15 million for its radio-astronomy project in 1978 it was awarded the ignominious Golden Fleece award by Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin. The radio astronomers who are doing most of the job are sneered at by optical astronomers.
Gene Capriotti, the chairman of astronomy department at Ohio State, scorns the efforts taking place on his campus by volunteers and electrical engineers posing as radio astronomers. “They do that work because they aren’t really qualified to do anything else in astronomy,” Capriotti remarks. Astrophysicist Frank J. Tipler at Tulane University, refers to their work as a boondoggle. “They are like evangelicals — this is a religion,” he maintains. “They think these people will come to save us from ourselves.”
Yet at both Ohio State and Harvard the work continues. At Harvard banks of 128 computers scan a narrow segment of sky toward which an 84-foot-wide antenna is aimed. Every two minutes 8.4 million narrow frequency bands are scanned. By that time the Earth’s rotation has moved the antenna’s aim to a new target and the process is renewed.
So far the search has been fruitless. In 1977 an Ohio State Scientist scanned a telescope printout and found what seemed to fit perfectly the assumed form of an alien greeting — it was a strong artificial signal on a narrow band of frequencies. But despite hundreds of tries the signal was never found again.
Unlike the Harvard project, the Ohio State program has hand-to-mouth funding belying claims that it’s a giant boondoggle. Robert Dixon, the astronomer in charge, says he has little government support and “relies on donations, scournges and shady dealing,” according to Paulette Thomas of the Wall Street Journal. He uses a 20-year-old computer that is “three years older than its programmer, a high school math whiz who works as a volunteer.” Right now the time spent searching for life on other worlds is almost exceeded by the time spent searching for adequate finances.
(1987) Take a few pounds of matter, compress it to a density of about 10 to the 75th power grams per cubic centimeter and BANG! you have an explosion the likes of which has not occurred since out universe was created. In fact, you will have created another and equivalent universe which will go through the billions of years of existence that our own has experienced with an infinity of possibilities for development.
But your new universe will never be able to communicate with ours because it would exist in its own bubble of space and time and any creatures who evolved on it would have as much trouble tracing their origins as we do. The incredible thing about all of this, to the minds of non-physicists, is that the explosive expansion of this Universe B would take place faster than the speed of light. Quantum physics, however, says it is all permissible.
Would Universe B disrupt our own universe in any way? Maybe not, since if it can’t communicate with ours how could it affect it? Still, common sense demands that there ought to be a few disturbances, at least in local space and time.
All this is not my own brainstorm. Rather it represents the theories of Prof. Alan H. Guth and colleagues of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as filtered through the reportorial mind of Malcom W. Browne of the New York Times. Dr. Gauth began work on his theory in 1979 at the age of 32 and although he met with disbelief at first, the mathematical consistency of his thinking and its “success in describing conditions that actually exist in our own universe” have converted many doubters, including some of the world’s leading physicists, says Browne.
What would happen with our theoretical expansion is that a bulge would develop on the surface of our own universe which would eventually pinch itself off from its parent into a new universe. All this is not easy. In fact, I do not pretend to understand it. Guth says that the pressures and temperatures needed to create the new universe from a tiny chunk of material “would be gigantic but not necessarily infinite.”
All this means that someday, if not now, some enterprising human beings might decide to create their own universe. Guth admits that such an achievement is far beyond our present abilities and technology “but some advanced civilization in the distant future might — well, you never know. For all we know our universe may have started in someone’s basement.”
Asking why wouldn’t the new universe be bumping into ours all the time with extremely dangerous consequences, we are told, “You just have to think of them as existing in different places at different times.”