Wishing for an answer to questions from the cosmos

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There’s a vision of the afterlife that’s incredibly appealing to me. It has nothing to do with reward or punishment and doesn’t even extend beyond the first few minutes at the pearly gates. What I want — desperately — upon transcending the mortal plane is to get answers to all the unanswered questions that plagued me in life.

In this scenario, some people might ask about the fate of the Roanoke colony or the contents of every sealed recommendation letter ever written for them. Who was D.B. Cooper, or how did Stonehenge get built? …

Our interstellar communication is as much for us as it is for them

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I have a tattoo on my leg that is often mistaken for a firework or a sparkler. It’s a long stem leading up from just behind my ankle bone to two-thirds of the way up my calf. Fourteen rays shoot off from the central point of the stem’s top—lines of different lengths, some interrupted into dashes, some paralleled by a second line for part of their length. The only people who know what it means are those who are already familiar with the symbol, at least when they encounter it on my leg. …

Pop culture’s creations far surpass what science says is possible

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Our world is full of aliens. Ones that we’ve imagined, I mean. Large-headed, large-eyed, silver- or green-skinned visitors on UFOs. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’s wide-set eyes, wrinkled brow, and glowing finger. Prosthetic-foreheaded Klingons and prosthetic-eared Vulcans and prosthetic-eared Romulans. Martians who look like humans — lots of aliens who look like humans, actually: four-limbed and upright, except for the ones who are nonorganic beings of pure energy or light. (And the space whales.) They’re psychic or telekinetic or eyeless or faceless, sometimes, but usually not. Especially on screen, they’ll look like us — for the sake of empathy or the simple…

The search for intelligent life reaches farther than any NASA mission

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In the search for life beyond Earth, questions of biology blur into something bigger. We slip from questions of molecules arranging themselves into life to questions of humanity and meaning — what is life, what is intelligence — and philosophy. What does it mean if we’re alone? What does it mean if we aren’t? NASA sends probes to comets and planets and moons to look for organic molecules, the chemical signatures of life or at least its possibility, but there is also the big gun, the moon shot: SETI—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It’s a different process, different science, but…

With all the ways scientists look at space, what are the odds of finding life?

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The sky seems so vast, and space beyond it. You leave the city, head out to the country, and discover the blanket of stars. You see the Hubble Deep Field, an image of a seemingly empty spot of sky, revealed to be full of galaxies, clustered like jewels. There’s a Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, too, which reveals even more.

So how could we be alone, with all this space? It seems impossible. It seems impossibly lonely, too.

As humanity has come to understand the universe, we’ve come to see, again and again, that we are not special. In 1543, Copernicus…

I spent a lot of this year—as I’ve spent a lot of the last few years—teaching. It’s hard to write when there are thirty college freshmen with their hungry, brilliant, needy minds, and so much of what they need comes from me. Lessons, feedback, grades, reassurance, pressure. Along with all that, I spent a lot of time working on a big project that isn’t yet in the world. If a tree falls in a forest but isn’t published yet— Wait, I think I wrote the same thing in last year’s year in review… “If a tree falls in a forest…

If a tree falls in a forest and it doesn’t publish anything online, did it have a 2014? I tweeted that earlier this week, but then I realized I had published things online. Multiple things! Things that I was proud of, even: stories and feelings and science and facts. That’s a nice thing about the internet — everything is all in one place, and it stays there for easy retrospection. (Sometimes that’s a not-nice thing about the internet, but it works for our purposes today.)

In 2014, here’s what was published by this tree:

One essay, “Aftermath,” started in 2011…

Jaime Green

Writer & editor | BuzzFeed, Brooklyn Magazine, Slate, Longreads, &c.

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