Monday, July 3, 2017

Life On Other Worlds

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

This is a slow time for ski racing fans. We are halfway between the end of last season and the start of the next one.  Ski racers are taking holidays or starting their dry land training. Because there is not much news, we are going to take a break from ski racing and talk about astronomy. The planet Zorkon in the Andromeda Galaxy has been mentioned many times in our articles. Both Anna Veith and Henrik Kristofferson have been recruited to compete for Zorkon. But what is Zorkon really like? Would exiled ski racers really like it there? To answer these questions, and more, one of our intrepid reporters went to the University of California Berkeley astronomy department and talked to one of the astronomers, who wanted to be identified as David. Let's find out what he has to say...

BB: Your department was the first to identify the planet Zorkon. How did you discover it?
David: My colleagues and I have spent many years researching other galaxies and trying to discover if there were other planets were capable of supporting life. About two years ago my partner Miroslav Zorkowicz--
BB: Are you two--
David: Yes, we work together and share an office, and no we are not gay.  We are both researching stars in other galaxies to see if there are any other planets with life on them.
BB: So Zorkon was named for Professor Zorkowicz. I can see why it was called Zorkon instead of Zorkowicz. Can you imagine a solar system with Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Zorkowicz? 
David: Pluto is no longer classified as a planet. It is a dwarf planet. Our solar system has 8 planets and 1 dwarf planet.
BB: I was alive when Pluto was still a real planet and it will always be one to me. OK, so you and Dr. Zorkowicz were looking for other worlds with life on them. It looks like you found one in the Andromeda Galaxy. 
David: We found the star AN17325CX and noticed that it had six bodies orbiting it. We figured out that they were planets. Calculating the star's brightness, the distance of Zorkon from it, and Zorkon's atmosphere, Dr. Zorkowicz and I figured out that it could support life. It was he who made the determining calculation, but it should have been me.
BB: What do you mean it should have been you?
David: I was late to work on the day that Miroslav made the final calculations about Zorkon's atmosphere. I am usually in the lab before him, but not on that fateful day. My bike got a flat tire and had to stop to patch the inner tube. The patch did not work, so I had to put on the spare inner tube.  In the time I was fixing my bike tire, Miroslav had his "Eureka moment" and told the rest of the department. By the time I got to work, the planet had already been named.
BB: Sometimes fate plays cruel tricks. I could have been a reporter for the New York Times, but ended up at the Blickbild. I missed my interview with the Times because I took a local subway train instead of an express. They have no tolerance for lateness. But enough about me and my failing career as a reporter.  Can you pick one of those other five planets to be named after you? After all, you were part of the dynamic duo which discovered them.
David: I suppose I could, but it would not be the same as being named for a planet that actually has life on it.
BB: Jupiter and Saturn don't have life and they are pretty cool. Jupiter is large and has the mysterious Big Red Spot. Saturn has rings. I would not mind having a ringed planet named for me. You said earlier that Zorkon's atmosphere could support life. Is is similar to Earth's?
David: We analysed data from Zorkon and found that its atmosphere is very similar to ours. It has slightly more oxygen and helium and less nitrogen. But humans could probably survive there without having to wear space suits.
BB: Do the Zorkonians talk with squeaky voices from the helium?
David: I don't know. We haven't seen any Zorkonians or recorded their voices.
BB: And the Zorkonians could theoretically survive on Earth?
David: Yes.
BB: Not to take away from Professor Zorkowicz's discovery, but we at the Blickbild already knew that there was life on Zorkon. After all, someone had to recruit both Anna Veith and Henrik Kristoffersen to race for Zorkon. 
David: That is true. If ski racers were to compete for Zorkon, there is the matter of getting there. The Andromeda Galaxy is almost two million light years away. They would never survive the trip, even if we had spaceships that could travel at the speed of light.
BB: When you look at Zorkon, you are seeing it as it was two million years ago. Let's suppose that life evolved on Zorkon between two million years ago and now. And also let's imagine that the Zorkonians are extremely intelligent and discovered a way to travel through space from one point to another in an instant. 
David: You mean like the teleportation device in Star Trek?
BB: Exactly! Do you think that Zorkonians could have discovered the Earth and are on it right now?
David: Anything is possible, but I haven't seen any alien beings on Earth.
BB: You could be looking in the wrong places. Who do you think built the Egyptian pyramids or made those weird crop circles in England? They were not made by ordinary men. Perhaps the Zorkonians have been traveling to Earth thousands of years ago.
David: This is starting to get a bit absurd.
BB: The Blickbild specialises in the absurd. But the way I look at it, neither you nor Professor Zorkowicz should claim credit for discovering life on Zorkon. OK, maybe he was really the first to find it---
David: We both found it! Together! He just got the credit of having it named for him because of my bloody flat tire! I would have been on time to work if it wasn't for that tire! That planet would have been named for me and not that publicity hound!
BB: Let me rephrase the question. Maybe the Zorkonians don't look like alien beings because they have been on Earth for so long and have evolved to look like us. You have seen enough TV programs and movies where space aliens look human. 
David: Of course I have. But they are science fiction and not based in reality. There is one question though: why are the Zorkonians interested in recruiting ski racers to compete for their planet? That does not make sense.
BB: Of course it does. If Zorkonians were on Earth, chances are some would have made it to Austria and seen a ski race or two, either live or on TV. We all know that the only thing on Austrian TV is ski racing.  Who knows, the Zorkonians could have brought an Austrian TV back to their home planet and showed it to their comrades. Next thing you know, everyone on Zorkon wants to become a ski racer.  
David: Wait a minute! You know nothing about how television works. A TV signal cannot travel two million light years from Austria to Zorkon. This is getting more and more ridiculous.
BB: There is one more question. Some of our current ski racers, like Marcel Hirscher, or Mikaela Shiffrin, seem almost superhuman because they are so consistently good. Do you think they are really Zorkonians? 
David: They certainly seem human to me, but I am beginning to wonder about you. I have never been asked such outlandish questions in my life. You certainly seem to know an awful lot about Zorkon that was never published.
BB: Of course I do because I work for a ski racing site. It is my responsibility to know everything that goes on in the ski racing world. I knew about Zorkon before you and Dr. Zorkowicz. By all rights that planet should be named after me, or at least after the Blickbild. We could have named the planet Intrepidus instead of Zorkon. You and Dr. Zorkowicz should be ashamed of yourselves for trying to steal our work.
David: How were we supposed to know that a ski racing parody site discovered a planet before we did? You don't exactly have a lot of followers.
BB: If you were paying any attention, you would have followed us. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview.  Perhaps the next time you find a planet, you will check with us to see if someone else already discovered it. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We really are human, though we have been mistaken for alien beings.

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