Romance Science Fiction

The night sky is always so enchanting, mysterious and full of wonder even to a scientist like me. “Lying on this blanket with you, on this mountain, and watching the sun drop behind the clouds, beyond the horizon below us is a resplendent high. Witnessing the sky turn brilliant oranges, and reds with grey shadows, and streaks of gold is always mesmerizing. When that moment passes and the gloaming sky turns into a velvety, diamond-studded, serene mantle, dreams and dreamers change. Yet, it is still romantic. Isn’t it Dawn?”

“Yes, Al. It seems to wrap around us, comfort us, until we recall that each beautiful diamond is actually a furious, powerhouse of energy. Then, I suddenly feel so insignificant under the vastness. That chilly change means we better get inside and start our shift.”

“Just ten more minutes, Dawn. Let me dream ten more minutes before putting on my astronomer hat and replacing the romantic dream with our sciences’ dream. How lucky are we to have so many dreams to follow? The observatory powers up quickly and we are early. Breathe this cold mountain air deeply for just ten more minutes.”

“Five minutes. I can’t wait to bring the new equipment online for our first look into deep space quad nine.”

-sigh- “I’ve been looking forward to tonight too. It’s taken a lifetime to develop our tech to do more than detect neutrinos. Until we had a supernova we could target, there was no point in collecting neutrinos. Come on. I can’t wait to make history with you.”

We wrapped our blanket and slowly walked, hand in hand, up to the observatory under dim moonlight. Pausing at the three steps before the door, we kissed passionately before assuming our professional roles. The outer door slid open when we reached the top step. The inner door opened after the outer one sealed. We inhaled the puff of conditioned air from the positive pressurized lab then entered the telescope chamber. The large room in non-reflective, drab, paint was crowded with new consoles and equipment, all surrounding the base of the enlarged, 200 inch optical telescope.

“The power reserve level gauge says that we have funneled and contained enough neutrinos to create and control Tacyons for faster than light communication and data transfer. That revolutionary collection with the recent breakthrough on understanding and controlling Quantum elements makes this night possible. I’m so excited!”

“Yes, Dawn. The LDPA (Large Disk Planetary Array) is nearly aimed at that ‘empty’ space where LETI (Looking for ExtraTerestrial Intelligence) caught a brief pattern of cohesive bits so long ago. Until this moment, we had to assume it was an empty hole in space. Just challenging that assumption makes this a worthy project. Don’t you agree, Committee 9?” I couldn’t help taunting the bean counters. Maybe that was foolish.

I whispered, “Many brilliant minds, project funders, and short sighted politicos are monitoring us right now, in real time. Let’s hope we can find something for them tonight, though we didn’t promise LETI results for several months.”

Without waiting for an answer, I continued narrating our progress for the Committee’s benefit and spoke up. “With the power boost from all this new tech combined, we can reach out 100 light years (LY) and scan one billion bands round the clock. Let’s hope computer projections about habitable planets in that area are correct. LDPA is set. Power on the array, Dawn, and sequence in the neutrinos.”

“Done. Starting Tacyon stream and enhanced Pings. Brilliant minds had to go primitive to take simple aquatic pinging tech and step it up to reflect LETI data in real time across 100 light years. Impressive!” That’s my woman — helping the politicians grasp how significant this is.

I pulled Dawn out of camera range. “This committee must be impressed enough to recommend expanding our program. Only one member has any physics background. I’ll try to give them a simplified taste of what we’re doing. Back to the consoles, love.” We kissed while we had a moment.

“Al, pings are already showing thousands of unknown, large planets with reasonable spectroscopic results.” I turned to the room cameras and gave the observers a sarcastic thumbs up. “In less than an hour, we have more data than we can process in detail in a year! This is an absolute success, though the LETI screen shows nothing yet.” I hope the morons are satisfied.

Speaking up for all to hear, “We don’t expect LETI results with intelligible data for some time, if ever. Besides distance, timing is a huge issue. At this stage, at least one of those planets must be beyond its version of agrarian and industrial ages. If they progressed as we have, they need to be in a late stage of an early electronics age and reaching out from their own LETI.

"Thanks to our new tech, we overcame the reply problem. Without Tacyons, it would take 100 years to hear their message, 100 more for them to hear our response and 100 more to hear their reply — ‘hello, anyone there’ - ‘yes’ - ‘who?’ What a dreadful, slow exchange that would be. What if they won’t get to that stage for another 90 years? We can’t and won’t wait that long. So our initial contact window is small at this time.”

From one of the politicos, “So the odds of E.T. contact are still near null and we wasted billions in taxpayer expense and years of brilliance on this boondoggle, as I thought!”

“No, Senatoris. Even with no contact EVER with another planet, this project has advanced science and technology by at least 100 years. Electricity, horseless carriages, space flight all seemed to be ‘boondoggles’ too when conceived. Look at how civilization benefitted from those advances. Look at the 1000-fold benefits returned from those programs. There are 1000s of spinoffs already from this project and an uncountable number more that our descendants will uncover. Our expenses are a small investment in our future.” His screen abruptly went blank. I smiled at my victory.

“Excuse me, Dr. Al, can you give a layman a simple explanation of neutrinos and this tech?”

“Well Senatoris Will, you’d need some background in physics and astronomy to grasp the simple explanation and a PhD to really understand it. So the highlights — neutrinos were theorized more than ninety years ago and proven sixty years later. It took decades to capture their tiny energy.”

“But what is it? Dark matter?”

“Not at all like that. A neutrino is a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron, but has no electrical charge and a very small mass. Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe. Years ago we achieved transmission of information using a beam of neutrinos. It is easy to transmit, easy to detect and can carry a lot of information over short distances.

“The easiest source of neutrinos is from our Sol. Neutrinos are born during the process of nuclear fusion in the sun. In the sun's core, the reactions that fuse hydrogen into helium produce electron neutrinos with energies of 14 million electron volts (MeV). By comparison, photons in the visible spectrum carry only about 1 electron volt of energy. About 100 billion solar neutrinos pass through your thumbnail every second.

“We know of four different types, but I won’t go into all that. Quantum-mechanical effects, which normally operate only at microscopic distances, were observed on terrestrial and astronomical distance scales. Neutrino physics and astrophysics is one of the most difficult jobs, requiring us to invent incredibly sensitive detectors and techniques.

“The best source is the high-energy neutrinos from outside our galaxy which immediately precede a Supernova. Neutrinos are affected only by a ‘weak’ subatomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism. If neutrinos have mass, they also interact gravitationally with other massive particles.”

Dawn continued, “They are a basic building block, with some investment payback on their own, but are not enough for our purposes. We are now merging Tacyons with them to greatly extend their range and speed and using new knowledge of Quantum Mechanics as well. This 100 LY test is just the first step to interstellar and inter galaxy communication in real time. We already added a Tacyon substream to return the pinged data instantly.

“As advanced as our Ping tech is, it too is in its infancy. Once we refine and enhance it, we will communicate with any race’s electronics and maybe even with just sound waves they produce. The exponential knowledge we will gain is unimaginable. I better get back to my console.” So proud of her, I sent her a subtle kiss.

Despite two long shifts a day, we found no ‘wow’ communications, but did locate 300 more planets of interest. Other, astonished, astrologers identified red dwarfs, planetary collisions and rogue planets in real time. They analyzed atmospheres, temperatures and seismic activity on hundreds of planets. Seven are habitable by our standards, pending more detailed inspection.

~~~~ Three months later ~~~~

Alarms sounding, “Dawn, look at the LETI screen! That’s real. It’s analog data, but it seems intelligent. Let the committee and the public know, we made contact. One computer is already breaking it down and decoding it.”

“Maybe we should wait for more — look, there are more data coming. It reads just fourteen LY away. We can trace it back to the source. I’ll alert everyone and break out the bubbly.”

The computer announced the stages of decoding. It found better patterns as the new data continued in a steady stream. When it found no basic alphabet or language instructions, it declared the data was a nonbinary, probably a random intercept and not directed communication. Further, it said the transmission used overlapped AM and FM coding and analyzed them separately.

“Dawn, let’s run the signal through an audio amp and the large screen oscilloscope app and see — whoa! Voices. I don’t know what they are saying, but they are clear and there are crowd sounds. Some of their odd language sounds musical and pleasant, but some sounds bellicose. I suppose we should have expected that.”

“Al, look at the big screen. There are images. People like us are competing in races and throwing poles and round things. Amazing! There’s a whole section of the crowd dressed the same way. Could those be dark uniforms? Look at the strange salute and cheers from them. We are recording this, right? Good.”

“The image is unstable, Dawn. Let’s sweep the signal. Oh no. It’s gone. The AM signal is still streaming.” The computer took days before it could translate the audible gibberish into our real words — most were words. Other bands of AM produced other sounds. Beautiful music, odd crashes, and horns. Our Tacyon beam focused farther along the data path and found another transmission three LY later. More crowds, primitive tech exhibits, another odd language — same results as before. Eleven LY farther, a complex and steady stream overlapped.

“Al, the video is back. We are detecting multiple streams on closely spaced frequencies. There’s a red headed woman making faces, fake crying, and the crowd may be . . . laughing? I don’t get it.”

“Maybe there’s a hidden code in all this. The computer is checking, but found nothing.” With time, hundreds of data streams flooded us. The main computer separated and processed them.

Hours later, “Dawn, we found the source and our pings have detected something small on orbit around one planet so far. Oh, there are many satellites around it. LDPA is locking onto one of them. The satellite is transmitting a digital signal that’s very different from the scattered analog signals which would have covered large areas of the planet. This transmission is extremely tight. Perhaps the analog was some sort of entertainment? This one is different.”

“I see that, Al. Again, it’s a mix of audio and video, but the code is unlike the analog signal. This image is absolutely clear. It’s slowly sweeping a ground image. Look! There’s a huge observatory dome on that mountain. The satellite is zooming in on it. OH! There are two live people outside it on a blanket — in real time. Make it louder so we can hear them if possible? OH! We can.” The stopper in the bubbly happily released itself. The computer translated. . . .

“The night sky is always so enchanting, mysterious and full of wonder even to scientists like us.”

May 01, 2020 07:22

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Christina Steele
17:14 May 01, 2020

I love this Al character. A beautiful romance in the midst of a scientific first encounter. How exciting! Love the full circle and these two lines stick out to me: The night sky is always so enchanting, mysterious, and full of wonder even to scientists like us. When that moment passes the gloaming sky turns into a velvety, diamond-studded, serene mantle, dreams, and dreamers change. Yet, it is still romantic. Everytime I read it I see more clues. Great story.


Al Paradiso
17:17 May 01, 2020

Thanks. Appreciate it. Any guesses to the quiz?


Christina Steele
18:31 May 03, 2020

I'm thinking about it. But it does seem odd that they are viewing themselves. I'm thinking they are viewing their past lives. I'll read it again. Analog signal DescriptionAn analog signal is any continuous signal for which the time-varying feature of the signal is a representation of some other time-varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time-varying signal. Later computers work on digital signals.


Al Paradiso
19:20 May 03, 2020

I suppose that's 1 way to look at it. There is a hint in the last line to suggest they are NOT seeing themselves. So why didn't they or their computer know the language? Analog signals were used in TV and radio transmissions until digital TV was mandated recently- 2009ish?


Christina Steele
19:29 May 03, 2020

Translated. And the champagne. Scientist like us. So viewing a similar couple in deep space?


Al Paradiso
19:44 May 03, 2020

YES. 'DEEP SPACE' is relative to your tech. Once upon a time, Jupiter was deep space, then Pluto, Proxima (4.2 LY away), galactic center (26000 LY), so their 100 LY peek is just the start of their exploring. You are close to 1 of the real life tributes. :)


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Al Paradiso
08:19 May 01, 2020

How many hints can you find that this isn't what it appears to be? Should I offer a prize to the first 10 who come closest by May 10?


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