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Does Mars Get The Weather Channel?

By Ralph De la Cruz

September 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 SO FL SUN-SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

What with all the hurricane-of-the-week fuss, you may have missed the story of our lives.

A radio signal that seemed to be emanating from deep in space was picked up by the massive radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

We're not alone.

Which is romantic and thrilling, or freaky and chilling, depending on whether you subscribe to the Steven Spielberg or the M. Night Shyamalan theory of the universe.

Of course, a skeptic might point out that these signals were supposedly sent 31 million years ago. What are the chances whoever sent those signals is still around? Or it might only be a stray Earth-based radio signal.

And sure enough, the day after the Sept. 1 article ran in NewScientist magazine, there was a terse rebuttal by The Planetary Society ("The largest nonprofit, nongovernmental space advocacy group"): "Reports of SETI@home Extraterrestrial Signal Highly Exaggerated," the headline on their Web site read.

But what if?

After all, if there's one truth about astronomy, it's that -- because numbers are so huge -- anything is possible.

What if the radio signal was a sign of life?

What if the Taino tribe had found a bottle washed up on a Puerto Rican beach in 1492? Would they have understood how that event would change their world?

What if you knew then what we know now? Wouldn't you feel compelled to offer words of warning?

That's the position I find myself in today.

So, in the name of humanity, I feel compelled to say something to my solar system brothers. Or sisters.

Which, right away, brings up our first serious challenge.

What do you call someone from the other side of the cosmos? ET seems so dated. And after all the immigrant bashing I've heard this past decade, alien sounds so ... confrontational. So, well, inhuman.

Undocumented's taken.

Universalists, now that has a nice ring to it. Or perhaps the more traditional ...

To whoever's out there:


Get as far away from this planet as you possibly can, while you still can.

We kill and maim in the name of religion or money. And not even the young of the species is protected.

We spend what little free time we have watching other humans humiliate each other inside a little electronic box called a TV.

And our planet's no fixer-upper. Settle here and you'll likely need a new crib within the millennium.

But if you're running out of options and absolutely need a place to, uh, crash, I would strongly suggest anyplace other than a long, narrow piece of land called Florida.

In the summer we get these storms called hurricanes every couple of weeks. And we have swarms of pests called "mosquitoes" that attack our bodies by sucking out critical bodily fluids. Around the area I call "home," there are more of them than stars in the Milky Way.

In the spring, we're overwhelmed by another breed called "college students," who strip off most of their outer garments and ingest bitter liquids that make them act irrationally. And then, in the winter, we're overrun by a species called "snow birds," who congregate by themselves and seem to intentionally clog the transportation infrastructure.

This year, even the fall is trouble. There's going to be a massive public event called an "election." Everybody will be in Florida for that.

But there is one place that's lovely this time of year.

Try Washington, D.C. It's easy to get around, and it's covered with beautiful concrete barricades. You'll enjoy it.

So, have a safe trip.

And remember, if you do get to Florida, for security purposes, make sure you don't have out-of-planet license plates on your vehicle.

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