Recent discourse on the demise of Deep Impact, the probe sent by NASA to smash into comets in efforts to learn more of what they're made of, moots the subject of survival on this planet and a need-to-know regarding the nature of our 'adversaries'. A fair approach, perhaps, on the premise that a comet smashing into Earth could likely destroy our entire ecosystem. Viewing the comet as a foe, however, strikes me as akin to an attitude commonly portrayed in science fiction as a precursor to unnecessary war. Many episodes of everything from Star Trek to Stargate have brought up the subject of 'fire first, ask questions afterwards', and warned that the aftermath is necessarily not pretty. Overwhelming evidence has been amassed that comets seed life on planets, and if you look closely you can almost see the allegory of sperm and egg on a galactic scale.
We are very close to a general acceptance that the definition of 'life' as humans have defined it is far too restrictive, and that everything from electrons to suns could be said to have sentience in some form. The unexpected death of Deep Impact could therefore be a random feat of cosmic roulette, or it could be the result of some pretty bad publicity from the injury caused to Tempel 1 when Deep Impact struck the unsuspecting celestial on 4th July 2005 - Independence Day, no less. Comet Ison seems to be a force to be reckoned with, and if life has indeed spread its parameters far wider than we have previously thought, Ison could be said to be a character of note.
While scientists and sci-fi writers ponder over the implications, Comet Ison wings its way between us and the Sun later this year. If - and it's a big If - Comet Ison has had anything to do with Deep Impact's sudden silence, I'd be among those to congratulate it on teaching us Earthlings a lesson. Unfortunately, the matter is unlikely to be settled as there is no possibility of gathering evidence to support a case one way or the other. The article linked at the start of this Post does go some way towards a graphic description of Deep Impact's attacks on celestials, and we could be forgiven for suspecting that some steps for Mankind are maybe just a little step too far.
Image courtesy of Andrew Girdwood, In Pure Spirit
Kathy is the author of Quantumology. She met up with quantum mechanics in 1997, pledging allegiance to its sources thereafter. These are her personal thoughts and testimonies.