A Strange Discovery


Professor Umlort was jumping for joy; he might even win the Xavel prize for his discovery! Fame and riches were to be his, he was sure. The funny thing was, he was looking for extragortofic life, but found an anomaly on the third planet of the Bingian system that was just downright inexplicably weird. The planet’s giant satellite was rare enough, but this wasn’t the first planet they’d found like that. The Zortarian system even had a double planet with both planets the exact same size, and what’s more they were the same size as Gortof.
The professor nervously straightened his dorbray; he was to be interviewed on live telezonor in a few minutes about his discovery. “Borz”, he said, “I sure am glad I majored in astronomy.” A ziffle led him to the interview chamber.
“Live in three... two... one..” the director said, then pointed at the show’s host.
“Good morning, Gortof! News is breaking this morning about a fantastic discovery in the Bingian system, and we have a live interview with Doctor Darly Umlort from the University of Lorp Central’s astronomy department. Professor Umlort, early reports were that you had possibly discovered life on Bing 3, but you now say the planet is lifeless?”
“Yes sir, this is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. It isn’t life, but it behaves as if it were alive, like leaves in the wind do, only without the wind. There are structures on the planet that grow, from nothing, and they’re composed of 100% inorganic material.
“But the strangest thing is the smaller, carbon based structures that seemingly move at random, with no rhyme or reason or apparent purpose. Don’t get me wrong, these moving structures are gigantic. But these things aren’t alive, either; at least, they’re not life as we know it. Very interesting, indeed.”
The interviewer grommed his rhytentles and said “Do you think your university will be sending a probe there?”
“No sir,” Umlort replied. “It’s ten thousand light years away. It would take our fastest probe five thousand years one way. That’s a long time to wait for data.”
“You say these objects move, I assume they aren’t blown around by the wind or something?” asked the interviewer.
“We thought so at first, but further study showed that what’s going on there should be impossible according to everything we know. These objects seem to be alive, but they can’t possibly be. First, they’re mostly made of dihydrogen monoxide and various forms of carbon and other materials. Science fiction writers have gone on and on about ‘carbon based life forms’, and although it could theoretically be possible, in practicality the only life we’ve found has been based on similar chemistry to our own. Besides, the atmosphere of this planet is mostly inert nitrogen, with a lot of pure, poisonous, oxygen. If they were alive, how would they breathe? And with so much dihydrogen monoxide on the planet—it’s mostly covered in the vile substance—it actually rains down from the atmosphere!”
He continued, “What’s strangest about this planet is the weak electromagnetic radiation that comes from it. The radiation is the strangest of all; this planet seems to be a giant magnet!”
“Wow,” said the interviewer, “Imagine what life would be like here if Gortof were a giant magnet!”
The doctor chuckled. “It would be lifeless. The magnetism would keep the star’s most important radiations, such as gamma rays, away from it.”
The interviewer would have shuddered had he been human, but since he was Gortofian he swanndiged (which is nothing like shuddering). “My Grodling! You would starve in a planet like that!”
“Indeed,” replied the doctor. “Life couldn’t even begin to start on a place like that, which makes the objects we’ve seen so strange. Our chemists and physicists can’t explain how things work there.”
“So, what’s next, Doctor?”
“More study, of course. The next generation of telescopes will measure frequencies of light almost all the way down to ultraviolet, far lower than the frequencies of light we can discern without the aid of mechanical apparatus. And it will be able to resolve all the way down to a single micrometer, even from here. Of course, with the lower frequencies you don’t get such a good resolution, but the data are fascinating."
“Will you still be on the forefront of the search for extragortofian life, Professor?”
“Well, of course, but we’re going to be studying this strange place a lot. There may even be a brand new science that evolves from this study.”
“Thank you, doctor, that was very interesting.”
“You’re very welcome. And thank you, sir.”
“Next up,” said the interviewer, “a look at the new forgantribles, just in time for flogardsmalia! And now a word from our sponsor...”

 

 


 
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