spend their entire lives
watching others live.
they never sin,
they never get angry,
they never go crazy,
they never explore,
and they make no mistakes.
they think they’re playing it safe
by digging a hole in the ground
and hiding their seeds in it,
so that when the imaginary unjust master
comes and makes demands,
they can dig them up and say
well, look! i did nothing wrong,
i did nothing wrong at all.
BURIED SEEDS (Magic Spells from the Cosmic Dragon)
36,400,000. That is the expected number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, according to Drake’s famous equation. For the last 78 years, we had been broadcasting everything about us – our radio, our television, our history, our greatest discoveries – to the rest of the galaxy. We had been shouting our existence at the top of our lungs to the rest of the universe, wondering if we were alone. 36 million civilizations, yet in almost a century of listening, we hadn’t heard a thing. We were alone.
That was, until about 5 minutes ago.
The transmission came on every transcendental multiple of hydrogen’s frequency that were listening to. Transcendental harmonics – things like hydrogen’s frequency times pi – don’t appear in nature, so I knew it had to be artificial. The signal pulsed on and off very quickly with incredibly uniform amplitudes; my initial reaction was that this was some sort of binary transmission. I measured 1679 pulses in the one minute that the transmission was active. After that, the silence resumed.
The numbers didn’t make any sense at first. They just seemed to be a random jumble of noise. But the pulses were so perfectly uniform, and on a frequency that was always so silent; they had to come from an artificial source. I looked over the transmission again, and my heart skipped a beat. 1679 – that was the exact length of the Arecibo message sent out 40 years ago. I excitedly started arranging the bits in the original 73x23 rectangle. I didn’t get more than halfway through before my hopes were confirmed. This was the exact same message. The numbers in binary, from 1 to 10. The atomic numbers of the elements that make up life. The formulas for our DNA nucleotides. Someone had been listening to us, and wanted us to know they were there.
Then it came to me – this original message was transmitted only 40 years ago. This means that life must be at most 20 lightyears away. A civilization within talking distance? This would revolutionize every field I have ever worked in – astrophysics, astrobiology, astro-
The signal is beeping again.
This time, it is slow. Deliberate, even. It lasts just under 5 minutes, with a new bit coming in once per second. Though the computers are of course recording it, I start writing them down. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 0… I knew immediately this wasn’t the same message as before. My mind races through the possibilities of what this could be. The transmission ends, having transmitted 248 bits. Surely this is too small for a meaningful message. What great message to another civilization can you possibly send with only 248 bits of information? On a computer, the only files that small would be limited to…
Was it possible? Were they really sending a message to us in our own language? Come to think of it, it’s not that out of the question – we had been transmitting pretty much every language on earth for the last 70 years… I begin to decipher with the first encoding scheme I could think of – ASCII. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 0. That’s B… 0. 1. 1 0. 0. 1. 0. 1. E…
As I finish piecing together the message, my stomach sinks like an anchor. The words before me answer everything.
Three months ago the beast, alien, or thing first entered our solar system. I wish I could describe it better. It was massive, almost half the volume of the sun and nearly a hundred times as dense. It was traveling a quarter of a million kilometers per hour. I don’t even want to talk about the amount of energy that is.
Our instruments and scanners were able to pick it up long before it passed Jupiter, and when I say passed, I mean it dislodged Jupiter from its orbit and sent it on its merry way to the Ort Cloud. Scientists are still debating on what effects this will have on us, but all of them agree that it will be the greatest struggle that humanity has yet to face. In other news, we get a meteor shower every night that rivals the yearly Perseid shower.
This thing, ship, giant space rock, or creature skimmed our solar system as if it were a bullet that just grazed the skin. We kept tracking it as far as our sensors would allow, looking at it as it blocks out stars in the night’s sky, and noticed something strange about its path. It was zig-zagging. The ability to move that much mass around is nothing short of impossible, and scientists are still struggling to explain it.
Surprisingly, the biologists were the first to come up with an insight about its movement. It strongly resembled the path a gazelle takes when it is being hunted by a cheetah.
That was a few weeks ago, and we have since pointed our telescopes towards the direction the thing came from, and sure enough, we were missing a skyful of stars.
OKAY IT TOOK ME ABOUT FOUR FUCKING HOURS TO DRAW THIS BECAUSE MY IPAD (Yeah I don’t have an actual drawing tablet I draw with my finger lol) DELETED IT RIGHT AFTER I FINISHED IT UGH. Anywho, yeah have this flying colors because I love these dorks omg. Artman is my ultimate bae though. I love him. Characters are rebornica’s
[With all its breaks and its sheer length, I don’t think there’s anything else in my Top 30 that stretches the definition of a “moment” quite as much as this does. But, hey—my list, my rules. ;P]
Our writers have done it again–the entire central section of “Light in the Dark” seems made to remind me why Korra is, appropriately enough, my favorite character in LoK. In both this scene and the corresponding scene from the Book 1 finale, it’s Korra’s unselfish determination to protect the people she cares most about that gives her the strength to come back from what looks like irremediable defeat. (And again she manages to do it in public, with an even bigger audience than last time!)
To begin at the beginning, though… maybe I should call this my favorite AtLA callback, because here, as in so many other places, Korra gets to pick up the story where Aang left off.
Aang once spent an entire episode opening his chakras with Guru Pathik, only to fall short of Cosmic status. Korra has been overcoming spiritual blocks with less fanfare since Book 1, and so she’s the one who finally gets to show us, onscreen, what happens when a chakra-opener actually reaches the giant glowing version of him/herself on the astral plane.
What happens is this:
Cosmic Korra is no wimpy astral projection, either, as Unavaatu quickly finds out.
The details are great, of course–Ikki and Meelo summing up the scene as only they can (“Korra’s back!” “And she’s a blue giant!”), Pema being a mom, Jinora being a eucatastrophe, and Korra using Unalaq’s signature technique against him, then sending him off with his own tag line, “Go in peace.” Not to mention, once again, the lack of dialogue–especially on Korra’s part–until she gets her second wind from her determination to save Raava.
But if I were going to pick out one actual moment as a favorite from this all-around-amazing sequence, it would be the one shown in the picture below, for being a perfect encapsulation of the entire fight.
This scene takes the top spot on my list because Avatar has always been about characters, especially its title characters, and this whole episode–from the Tree of Time to the Korra’s decision to leave the Spirit Portals open–is the epitome of character development. Unalaq schemes throughout the season to gain the power of an Avatar… only to be beaten by Korra, whose Avatar powers are mere appendages to her own incredible strength and conviction, and who’s more than a match for Unavaatu even after losing Raava and the Harmonic Convergence battle. This final fight isn’t just about Korra developing some new power; it’s about her becoming more fully the person she always was.
And that’s why I love this show and this character so much, and why I maintain that every season of Avatar has been better than the one that preceded it. I can’t wait to see how this trend continues in Book 3. ^__^
Here’s a nighttime view of Washington, D.C. from the astronauts on the International Space Station on October 17. Can you spot the White House?
Check out this look at our sun taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. The SDO watches the sun constantly, and it captured this image of the sun emitting a mid-level solar flare on June 25. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare can’t pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. But when they’re intense enough, they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
Next up is this incredible view of Saturn’s rings, seen in ultraviolet by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Hinting at the origin of the rings and their evolution, this ultraviolet view indicates that there’s more ice toward the outer part of the rings than in the inner part.
Take a look at the millions of galaxies that populate the patch of sky known as the COSMOS field, short for Cosmic Evolution Survey. A portion of the COSMOS field is seen here by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Even the smallest dots in this image are galaxies, some up to 12 billion light-years away.
The picture is a combination of infrared data from Spitzer (red) and visible-light data (blue and green) from Japan’s Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The brightest objects in the field are more than ten thousand times fainter than what you can see with the naked eye.
This incredible look at the Cat’s Eye nebula was taken from a composite of data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope. This famous object is a so-called planetary nebula that represents a phase of stellar evolution that the Sun should experience several billion years from now.
When a star like the Sun begins to run out of fuel, it becomes what is known as a red giant. In this phase, a star sheds some of its outer layers, eventually leaving behind a hot core that collapses to form a dense white dwarf star. A fast wind emanating from the hot core rams into the ejected atmosphere, pushes it outward, and creates the graceful filamentary structures seen with optical telescopes.
This view of the International Space Station is a composite of nine frames that captured the ISS transiting the moon at roughly five miles per second on August 2. The International Space Station is a unique place—a convergence of science, technology, and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As the third brightest object in the sky, the International Space Station is easy to see if you know when to look up. You can sign up for alerts and get information on when the International Space Station flies over you at spotthestation.nasa.gov.
Thanks for following along today as NASA shared the view from astronomy night at the White House. Remember to look up and stay curious!