It’s raining on my face

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Some songs stay with you forever. Some songs show up on your playlist on an otherwise perfectly happy morning, and reduce you to a sniveling mess. Some songs are both, they make you smile with anticipation when they start playing and when they play, tears cloud your vision like snowflakes on the lashes. And you have to look away, look up, look out of the window, hoping the person sitting next to you does not notice the fine shine of a fresh layer of tears on your eyes.

I have a whole playlist of these songs precisely collated and avoided so that I do not end up with leaky eyeholes in public. I do give my eyes the occasional cleaning behind closed doors though, with ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King, followed immediately by Jab Koi Baat from Jurm.

It struck me today how similar the songs are (apart from the fact that they both get my eyes sweaty). Not only do the songs have a common theme of companionship and togetherness, part of the lyrics are also so similar that it is difficult to believe this could be a co-incidence.

Stand by me:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me

Jab koi baat:

Jab koi baat bigad jaye (When something goes wrong)
jab koi mushkil pad jaye (When in some difficulty I fall)
Tum dena sath mera, o humnava (You stand by me, darling)
Na koi hai, na koi tha (there isn’t anyone, there wasn’t anyone)
zindagi mein tumhare siva (in my life except you)
Tum dena sath mera, o humnava… (You stand by me, darling)

…Chaandni jab tak raat (Until the moonlight lasts in the night)
deta har koi saath (Everyone stands by me)
tum magar andheron mein (But you, despite darkness,)
na chorna mera haath
(don’t let go of my hand)

Slight rearrangement of elements, meanings and words, but you see what I mean?

If aliens were to make contact with Earth, what country/city are they most likely make contact with first?

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I love thought experiments. My answer to this question is Keflavik in Iceland (more particularly the Keflavik International Airport), and my explanation is as below.

When considering a scenario where aliens are planning to contact life on earth, there are two major considerations (a) Which superpower/other country do the aliens wish to contact?; (b) Where will the aliens land and establish their base?. For the sake of preliminary shortlisting, let’s consider both questions together. Once we arrive at a shortened list, we can consider the questions separately.

Preliminary short-listing.

Assuming the aliens would want to land on land masses and not contact passing ships or ocean-life, they have the choice of landing at any place in (including islands near) Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Antarctica and Australia. Let’s look at the important factors now:

  1. Their purpose is to establish contact with human beings. For this, they would ideally want a large number of human beings to be present at or near the location where they land - Looking at the world map, this eliminates Antarctica and Australia as the two continents appear distant from other land masses. This leaves us with Africa, Europe, Asia, North America and South America.
  2. Let’s assume the aliens are going to rely on technology to connect with humans. The area they wish to land in should evidence (a) an acceptable level of advancement in technology proliferation, and (b) sufficient resources to support  and run their systems easily. - I am going to eliminate Africa from our list for lack of technology proliferation and South America for lack of prominent space exploration programs. This leaves us with Europe, Asia and North America.

Which superpower/other country do the aliens wish to contact?

The aliens in all likelihood, would want to contact countries with a history of wanting to contact aliens, space exploration and research. They have the following options:

  • OPTION A - The aliens contact the United States of America.
  • OPTION B - The aliens could contact Russia/China/India.
  • OPTION C - The aliens could contact the European countries.

Allow me to examine each of these options separately:

First, I take OPTION B

  • If the aliens have even cursorily analyzed the politics of our world, they would understand that it would be difficult to build consensus between Russia, China and India. It would take maximum effort and they would still require an ally in European bloc or the USA. It would be best to approach USA/European bloc by opting for approach OPTION A or OPTION C, and then build consensus with the Asian countries, depending on who they support. So OPTION B cannot be the PRIMARY PLAN.

OPTION A

  • The aliens could choose a focused, but risky approach of picking OPTION A and base themselves out of South America, to contact the United States of America. If that succeeds, nothing like it. They have the support of USA and its allies. They will in all likelihood have excellent access to the United Nations and be invited to address the other countries of the world. But if this endeavour fails, they are too far from Eurasia to execute OPTION C or OPTION A. So, this cannot be the PRIMARY PLAN, but makes a good BACK-UP PLAN to be executed after the PRIMARY PLAN, or in parallel.
  • Hollywood movies indicate a certain tendency of the United States government to behave violently towards aliens, whether friendly or otherwise.

OPTION C

  • This appears to be the ideal option – to contact the European countries. They have sufficient clout and  international presence, the United Nations is present across Europe. Hell, they even have a common space program. But relying upon OPTION C alone, is not a wise idea as the many countries that form the EU may disintegrate into debate and have fragmented opinions. So, while this is a good PRIMARY PLAN, it needs a BACK-UP PLAN.

From the above exercise, we ascertain that it would be best for the aliens to contact the European Countries, as a PRIMARY PLAN, and the United States of America, as a BACK-UP PLAN.

Where will the aliens land and establish their base?

What the aliens need now is a good base from where they can execute Option C as PRIMARY PLAN A, and OPTION A as BACK-UP PLAN, or both simultaneously, in parallel, to see which works best. The need to be near enough to Europe, but also near enough to the United States of America, without entirely geographically committing to either bloc at the cost of being inaccessible to the other bloc.

For this reason, I think the aliens will land in Iceland. The geography and neutral political makeup of Iceland also supports my conclusion:

  • Iceland is not land-locked and is easy enough to plot on the world map. The alien spaceship can free fall from space onto Iceland quite easily.
  • Iceland is geographically near enough to European bloc, without being inaccessible to the American bloc, should they wish to engage with the aliens.
  • While Iceland is sufficiently connected with the European countries, it is currently not a part of the European Union (it has withdrawn its request of accession to the EU).
  • US and Iceland share a history of bilateral relations, but Iceland has often been described as a reluctant ally to the US.
  • Should things get difficult or dirty, Iceland is a small enough island to be taken over and controlled by alien forces, to serve as a military base for further operations or peacekeeping efforts, without interference from any other country.

Where in Iceland?

  • It is natural to assume that the aliens would land at Reykjavik in Iceland, as it is the largest city in Iceland, and has sufficient wherewithal to understand and support an alien invitation to communicate with earth. However, assuming the aliens are minding their manners and landing on runways instead of plonking their spaceship in the middle of the city, they would recognize the difficulty of landing at Reykjavik.
  • The Reykjavik airport has rather short runways and normally only serves flights within Iceland and to Greenland and to Faroe islands, and small international charters, ferry flights over the Atlantic and private flights.
  • A viable alternative would be to land and establish base at the Keflavík International Airport, which is Iceland’s biggest airport and only about 50 kilometres away from Reykjavik.
  • The Keflavik airport has three runways, of which two are operated at any given time. The aliens can plan their arrival by landing and establishing base on the third runway, without causing too much inconvenience to us, their hosts.
  • The Keflavik airport is very near to the open sea, and is not land locked.

Therefore, the aliens will first land and establish base at the Keflavík International Airport, and then look to establish contact with the European Union and the Government of the United States of America, with the help of the Government of Iceland (or not).

Gliese 581g and life on tidally locked planets

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So firstly, because of tidal locking, it is likely that there are widely varying climate zones on the planet. If the planet is sufficiently distant from its star, perhaps the resulting temperature is just right to keep water in its liquid state on the surface, and this overlaps with the habitable zones on the planet. Else, one side is baking while the other side freezes. 
 
If we are to assume extreme temperatures on the planet (such as that which exists on Gliese 581 g), as a result of high temperature on one side of the planet, it is also likely that it rains more on that side of the planet, leading to uneven erosion of the surface of the planet and resulting in the side with more light  actually becoming the lighter side of the planet. Add to this varying degrees of influence from winds, atmospheric heat transfer, nature of the planet’s surface, etc.
 
Let’s limit ‘life’ to life as we know it and expect to find elsewhere in the universe. Geographically speaking, life may exist only the two extreme sides of the planet, which are not facing the star or facing away from the star (unless there are daredevils willing to bear the brunt of extreme weather conditions or we have invented other means to cope with such conditions). Limited to these narrow strips on either side, life would exist in a permanent state of twilight, neither day nor night. Or both day and night at the same time, as one half is permanently light and the other half is permanently dark. 
 
On sleep patterns, perhaps hours would be designated as ‘awake hours/day hours’ and ‘asleep hours/night hours’. Perhaps houses would have rooms facing the darker side for designated night hours and rooms facing the light for designated day hours. Energy generation may work differently, with mechanisms for harnessing power being placed on the lighter side to serve power needs in the darker side.

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