What Does the Universe Offer Us?

by Pablo A. Nieto

A la versión original

Marcos and I were sitting on a cozy park bench, drinking herbal tea and exploring different philosophies.

“Do you think there’s life out there, in space?” I asked him.

His answer was flat and peremptory: “No.”


“Because there is no possible way for anything to live outside Earth, and if there were, we would already know about it.”

He had always been narrow-minded, but nevertheless I insisted: “Well, in any case, the fact that we don’t know if there’s something out there has nothing to do with its existence. If we don’t know something, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening or that it doesn’t exist. For example, there could be an elephant crossing the street a couple of blocks from here, and we would never know, but it still would’ve happened.”

“Are you crazy?” he replied.

“No, I’m proving something that can’t get past your narrow-mindedness. Just because you can’t see it or don’t know about it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. That elephant could be there, but you wouldn’t know about it, just because you wouldn’t go and take a look to see if there is indeed an elephant crossing the street. If such a thing can happen only a block away, think about all that could be far away in space. We haven’t explored anything beyond our galaxy! Anything could exist, we just can’t see it.”

“No. One thing has nothing to do with the other, aliens and elephants are quite different things,” he replied in the usual curt tone he took whenever I explored unorthodox possibilities. “If we start blathering in this state of delusion, we will end up saying anything.”

“I’m not blathering.” I answered “Blathering would be saying that there are Martians and beings from outer space living here on Earth, in this very neighborhood, which we know inside and out. But a hundred light years away — no, let’s say a million light years away — anything and everything can happen.”

“No! There’s nothing there. There’s nothing there, I tell you.” He shook his head. “We won’t find anything, just a couple of asteroids and some gassy planets.”

As always, Marcos was starting to piss me off with his narrow-mindedness and self-assured comments. However, I was determined to change his mind about space exploration.

“Let´s see,” I said as calmly as I could, “most likely what you are saying is true; there’s probably nothing there. But there is still the possibility, no matter how remote, but believe me it exists. Maybe far, far away in another galaxy we will never get to explore, at least not for now, there are things happening. Maybe there is life. Many and even complex life forms.”

“Now you’re really putting me on,” he replied in a bored and arrogant tone. “Well, let’s say that there is life outside Earth. Let’s say that you go against the odds, like winning the lottery twenty-five times in a row. And suddenly there is life on a distant planet. So what? Why do they have to be weird extraterrestrials? Can’t they just be gray sponges, ten centimeters each, that feed on their planet’s gases?”

I had to admit that Marcos was not only persuasive but realistic, and his sponge theory was more credible than anything in Hollywood space movies.

“Okay!” I conceded, “what you say is quite possible. But yes, there can be strange things, though it’s less probable. I think that in reality, millions of light-years away, there are complex life forms similar to us.”

“And why do they have to resemble us?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because they come from a similar planet, which gives them a history similar to ours. There are many things that can happen in the Universe we don’t know. Although it is a far-fetched idea, there could even be life forms that have societies organized just like ours, with the same professions. I don’t know... maybe even similar landmarks.” I knew I was getting fantastical, but I continued: “Maybe they even play soccer and have an Obelisk and a Centenary Park.”

“You should have your head examined!”

“Or maybe,” I continued, “they’re even more intelligent than we, or more sensitive. Maybe they can feel and perceive things that we can’t even imagine. They could even see other dimensions we can’t!” I was getting excited now.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Just imagine how things would change for us if we had two eyes instead of one!”

Copyright © 2007 by Pablo A. Nieto

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