Kepler Raises Privacy Concerns
Vintage Quantum Spin Doctors – We weren’t there when it happened, BUT WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN!
QSDWire – Houston, Texas
Today NASA issued a press release promoting NASA’s new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope. With just ten days’ worth of test data collected, Kepler has already discovered one exoplanet. According to Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate’s Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, “detecting this planet’s atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The planet hunt is on!”
The news of Kepler’s startling viewing abilities was met with swift concern, however, by the many citizens of neighboring Gliese star systems.
“Hmphf,” exclaimed one concerned Gliesen citizen, “typical of of Earth-bound scientists, especially those NASA types…all science, and no concerns at all about individual privacy.”
“Oh where is the decency of these people, these NASA/Kepler folks?” asked another concerned citizen from Gliese 581 system. “Don’t they give a hoot about privacy any more? Can’t you be by yourself anymore, without anyone watching? What have these worlds come to?”
“There is a reasonable expectation of privacy in this Universe today,” according to Dr. Eseilg, an expert on interstellar privacy and practicing galactic attorney. “Before Kepler all we had to worry about was a light reading or two from the Hubble, or maybe even the Keck telescopes. No big deal.” Dr. Eseilg straightens his glasses. All 6 of them. “Now I am advising ALL of my clients to appropriately label their planets, so as to advise these NASA no-gooders that we expect privacy, and we shall have it!”
“The people, man, the people of this galaxy just don’t like it, man,” explains a concerned citizen from Gliese 876. “When we say ‘keep out’ we mean…uh, you know…don’t look, or something like that.” Three of his eyes blink. “Privacy is important to us, you know, and I’m getting really upset about Kepler invading my privacy!”
And, yes, Kepler is all for the purpose of science. But the Gliesens? They’re usually looking for other things.
I don't get it!
Ok, let’s go at this a different way.
Exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) are hard to see. They don’t give out much radiation themselves, and what they give out pales by comparison to the star they’re likely near. So, most telescopes have a tough time finding them. Sure, some smarty-pants astronomers (and you know who you are) get around this by measuring dimming/brightening of a star as a planet passes in front of it (or is it as the astronomers themselves pass in front of the telescope lens? GET OUT OF THE WAY! BACK OFF MAN, I’M A SCIENTIST!), but what fun is that? Especially when you can spend ungodly millions of dollars on a special “planet hunting” telescope?
So, now humanity has the Kepler telescope. And it’s gonna find lots and lots of planets.
But did anyone give a moment’s thought to how this affects the aliens living on these planets that are yet to be found? Nooooooooooooooo. Of course not…we mean, nobody cares about privacy rights in this day and age, right?
Anyway, the joke is that the Kepler telescope won’t really be able to see that much. Of the aliens, that is. If there are any aliens. If they even care if anyone’s looking.
See, the Gliese Catalogue of Nearby Stars lists all of the stars within 25 parsecs of good ‘ol Sol. These are the folks who are going to be spied upon! Well, not really. But in writing an awful story like this, that’s the twist. Kepler’s looking, and those nearest to Kepler are the most concerned. But in reality the Kepler telescope wouldn’t be able to see them, even if they exist, because that’s well beyond the capabilities of any telescope.
Get it? Get it? Oh.