My question for Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock and for SETI on the Earth’s Moon

 

Watched BBC Four’s documentary, “Do we need The Moon?” It was wonderful. Highly recommended. Everyone who has seen it seems to agree with me about that.  Some wonder why Maggie Aderin-Pocock wasn’t trending on Twitter. Her not being on Twitter is part of the explanation. Awful scheduling decisions didn’t help. Many attractive television on at the same time.

Black woman scientist who had to overcome dyslexia with an important theory or set of theories about the moon. Wonderfully well researched program. Lots of food for thought. A must see for any Earthling with a shred of curiosity. BBC Four is wonderful, but this program needs a wider audience.

In general I agree with her more contentious theories about the role of The Moon on the creation and on the maintenance of life on Earth. So many aspects to this. Having said that, there remains the theory that moons such as Europa may have formed life in underwater oceans, and that Mars being within the Goldilocks Zone may have lead to life forming there first, and life on the Earth possibly having traveled here from Mars. I rule out neither of these theories.

But the sustainability of life on Mars is related to factors that may rule out the possibility of evolution having the time necessary to form intelligent life. And could intelligent life form in oceans such as may exist in Europa? Hardly. Electrical circuits would keep blowing up.

But I would go further than Dr Aderin-Pocock. While life may form under many conditions unlike that of the Earth, what about intelligent life? Is it impossible that without a circular object dominating the night sky, shining a light on all of us, the discovery of the wheels after generation of plans painted in caves would have been less likely?

Without the invention of the wheel, might our ancestors have a hard time discovering one of the key elements of mathematics, pi, without which we may never have developed physics, ending up with electromagnetic wave generators and detectors? Or discovered gravity, and using maths to plot courses between the planets?

One last point. I am not sure when this thought first occurred to me, but for years I have pondered on the coincidence that is the total eclipse of the sun. Maggie Aderin-Pocock said how surprised she was to discover that this was a mere coincidence. On the face of this, it seems obvious. No reason why a ball of plasma four hundred times that of our life-giving Moon need be exactly four hundred times further away. And it is a blink in the cosmological eye that this coincidence casts a shadow on our beautiful planet. However,….

Please watch the following key scene in Stanley Kubrick’s classic science fiction movie, 2001. Imagine what it must have been like for our ancestors in groups to have witnessed, unexpectedly, a total eclipse of the sun. This is exactly what would have befallen them. Would these short attention spanned chimps have simply moved on when the eclipse was over? Might some of our ancestors not have considered the water cooler moment of all time, something never to be forgotten, something to ponder and to keep referring back to, something to tell their children and their children’s children?

Could curiosity not have been sparked by total eclipses of the sun in a manner not unlike that focused on by Stanley Kubrick? Maybe most of our ancestors would have noticed little. But maybe some of our more curious ancestors would have distinguished themselves.

Maybe total eclipses of the sun played some – subsidiary? – role in making scientific curiosity and, possibly, myth-making and story-telling too, a factor in survival of the fittest within our species, helping nudge us down the road to a form of culture that lead inexorably to Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock and all of her fans. Just a thought.

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