US Congress Has Close Encounter Over Extraterrestrial Life

Congress ... phone home. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/UniversalCongress … phone home. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Universal

sage:  Yay!  At last, progress toward full disclosure.  I think this is huge news, considering it wasn’t long ago that the government denied outright any knowledge of extraterrestrial life and ridiculed the very idea. 

By Tom McCarthy, The Guardian – December 4, 2013 |Thanks to Golden Age of Gaia.

Witnesses from NASA and MIT suggest to House committee that scientists may be on verge of breakthrough in search for aliens.

The search for extraterrestrial life crosses every boundary. It has surpassed the limit of where humans can travel and tested the limits of what we can see. The quest must pass through time as well as space.

Also: Congress. A House committee convened on Wednesday to take up an abiding mystery of the universe: are we Earthlings alone? After about 90 minutes of testimony, committee chair Lamar Smith of Texas gaveled the hearing to an inconclusive close.

It was not, however, a fruitless outing. In impassioned testimony, witnesses from NASA, MIT and the Library of Congress described a crossroads in the search for life out there and suggested scientists may be on the verge of a breakthrough.

“This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to cross the threshold,” said Dr Sara Seager, an MIT professor and 2013 MacArthur “genius grant” recipient. Her work focuses on the detection of “biosignature” gases on distant planets, large volumes of which might indicate life, whether intelligent life or single-cell bacteria.

Seager testified that the James Webb space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, and other advances are changing the search for alien life forms. “If life really is everywhere, we actually have a shot at it,” she said.

NASA announced last month that its Kepler mission had discovered 3,500 potential planets in the Milky Way galaxy, including 647 thought to be the right distance from stars to support inhabitants. The Hubble space telescope has detected water in the atmospheres of five planets outside the solar system, according to two studies released this week.

“The chance is very high” of life elsewhere in the universe, Seager said. “The question is: is there life near here, in our neighborhood of stars? We think the chances are good.”

The witnesses said that sustained funding was needed for scientific research in general and space research in particular. The latest White House budget calls for $17.7bn for NASA, a slight decrease from 2012 after deeper cuts in the last decade.

“I know that funding is tough, but it’s the best thing that you can do,” said Dr Mary Voytek, senior scientist for astrobiology at NASA.

“You’ve pretty much indicated [the discovery of] life on other planets is inevitable,” observed Bill Posey, Republican of Florida. “It’s just a matter of time and funding.”

Reflection And Expression

Teachers as mirrors, from whom to learn
To rest from function, to function from rest

Bereft in sunlight’s brightness as a candle
Of use only in the consuming
And the being brought to nought
All is dust and rust
As birds beyond the glass escape from view
Into futures where all maybes are while I
Remain in now where only maybe is

Reflecting, refracting back through darker days
Pitting the dim forgetfulness of memory
Against the dusk, the dawn, the falling leaves
It’s not the words at any time
(Especially in recall)
That count along the rosary of reverie
But what goes on behind, within the words

Shorestander, confusing the sea’s innocence
With some unbidden guilt of his own
From pure self-interest does not steal
From self-protection does no harm
The tides run thick and dirty whiles
Reflecting a legion sky whose night
Has lost the tenure of the day

Dust on mirrors, teachers unheeded
Oscillating from intensity to extremity
Possessed of a prehensile tongue
Crying wordless hymns to the living rain
Speaking wildly waiting for an answer
From whom is hidden nothing
But his very blindness

In a rolling and colourful world of waves
Where two become three (or seem) that never were but one
To embrace each his differentness – the alien in others, in oneself
… That never were but one, who loves us all (forever)
That none can deny, who are his flesh
The body as landscape, an artwork of defiance
Leaving a trail in the otherwise untrodden

A line dictates and bounds a form
To be without a form then take no line
In silence lose all forms as ripples fade
All expression relative reiteration of the absolute
The centre of whom we may not speak
For how then shall I tell of thee
Who am to me as I?

Whose rule is endless
Whose pencil is revolving
Whose lists are incomplete
Who has not come to a conclusion
Who is researching his autobiography
Still silence has been dissected by better lines
And who am I?

Separation not for waste, for duplication; still less duplicity
But trust in the unknown, though the watch
Replace the spire bell, the car the cycle
Mystery of beauty undeserving still observed
Till lover, love and beloved are unravelled
And a traveller may be one with his cycle and free
From the view of things surrounding through some already window