Not many people can say that what interested them in the academic discourses of astrobiology, cosmology, physics, and the search for extra terrestrial life (SETI), was a SciFi show. Well, maybe some can. I just want to be special and need you to help me in this delusion. Cool? Cool cool cool. The show that turned me on (*snicker*) to the above mentioned subjects was none other than Farscape. Please, excuse me while I fangirl out for a few seconds…..
(View the fangirl flailing here.)
Aaaaaaaand I’m back.
For those who are unfamiliar with Farscape (1998-2003), it is an Australian science fiction show created by Rockne S. O’Bannon that was aired by the Nine Network. It was under contract to have a run of 5 seasons, but in the last episode of season 4, the fans were left with a cliffhanger that I am sure broke hearts and perhaps a few TV or computer screens. An abrupt and completely stupid decision to cancel the series brought Farscape to it’s end at season 4. In a last effort to attempt to receive some closure on the story, co-producer Brian Henson secured the rights. Because of the efforts of Brian Henson, and the rest of the Farscape crew, fans were lucky enough to get a three hour-long miniseries/movie titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars that definitely brought a feeling of finality to the beautiful-ness that is Farscape. There had also been an official announcement of a webseries that was released by Syfy, but according to Farscape on Wikipedia, there have only been rumors of back and forth between having the script and not having funding. Basically, Syfy just failed at life and never had them done–the webisodes were never created. However, the fans did receive a series of comics that began running in 2002 with a two issue comic. They were later revived back in 2008 and ended in late 2011.
The series revolves around an Astronaut named John Crichton, and his hypothesis on some kind of scientific thingy-ma-bobby based on a spaceship he created. While in his pod, he gets hit by a radiation wave and is then sucked into a wormhole, much like Theoretical Physicists today are claiming exists. Well, the math is correct and supports the idea of a wormhole existing somewhere in space, but scientists have not seen one… yet. (Spoilers?) John Crichton succeeds and safely travels through a wormhole into another dimension encountering various aliens and extremely different ways of doing everyday things, like brushing one’s teeth. The universe John Crichton has entered is entirely different from his own in more ways than one. It is run by Peacekeepers, and don’t let the name fool you. The Peacekeepers are, for lack of a better word, meany-pants, and have a ton of government-like power over the majority of the aliens in Crichton’s newly discovered other worldy dimension. John Crichton finds himself inside of a living ship that is sentient, can communicate, and has the ability to procreate (crazy, right?), named Moya. The series follows Crichton’s desire of finding the same wormhole that sent him to that strange universe so he can return to his beloved Earth. In the midst of being away from all Crichton has known and finds familiar, he finds love. YOU GUYZ, it is an epic love story. I hate “love stories”, but if I tell you that you will love it, you will LOVE it. If you’d like to know more of the premise straight from the Hynerian’s mouth, check it out here.
But don’t just take it from me; take it from John Crichton who would like to share a few words: “My name is John Crichton, an astronaut. A radiation wave hit and I got shot through a wormhole. Now I’m lost in some distant part of the universe on a ship, a living ship, full of strange alien life forms. Help me. Listen, please. Is there anybody out there who can hear me? I’m being hunted by an insane military commander. Doing everything I can. I’m just looking for a way home” (IMDb). Commence FEELS.
Besides my immense fangirl feelings toward this show and everything about it, I was interested in the actual science behind this science fiction show; in other words, I was interested in the science in the fiction. Prior to this show, one could argue that I had a lower than basic understanding of the universe and how it worked. While I have always been a fan of SciFi, a topic like space that was expressed and used ever so curiously in Farscape lit a fire under my tush and prompted me to learn more about what exists outside of, as Carl Sagan so aptly put it, our “Pale Blue Dot“. Also, before I forget, if you have never seen Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, I can’t even. Do it now and have your frelling mivoks blown away. I have linked you to episode one on YouTube and the entire series is available for streaming on Netflix. You are totes welcome, my friend (yeah, I just said “totes”. Love me).
Oops. I went off track, and for that I apologize. I get way too excited about space. Now, where was I? Oh yes! So, the intrigue of Farscape allowed me to spend countless hours of my own time studying the theory of Wormholes, Theory of Relativity, gravity, Cosmological Constant, Big Bang Theory, The Fermi Paradox, Higgs Boson, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and a ton of other concepts that I did not even know existed. This also lead to me spending a ridiculous amount of time watching and legally downloading (psh, I always legally download, bro) a ton of documentary shows and movies. I started devouring anything with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Carl Sagan, NASA, Phil Plait, Professor Brian Cox and a ton of others. I listened to podcasts, read scientific journals, was pissed that Pluto was no longer a planet (I’m lookin’ at you, Neil), and took avid notes of everything and anything space related. Eh, I guess you could say I was obsessed, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. WHOAMIKIDDING?! Of course I was, and I still am.
Another aspect of the Farscape‘s story-line that intrigued me, like when a dog walks on it’s hind legs, was the discovery of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence through Crichton’s trip via wormhole. John encountered aliens that were to be his companions and friends over his stay in an unfamiliar universe. There was Ka D’Argo, a Luxan; Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, a Delvian; Aeryn Sun, a Sebacean; Rygel XVI, a Hynerian, and others who come later on in the series. Crichton, upon arriving onto Moya and meeting all sorts of different species in less than 10 minutes, sparked a curiosity in me that was dormant but was now awakened: what if other life in the universe existed, and if so, is anyone even looking? Being the smart cookie that I am, I did some research and discovered The SETI Institute.
The woman behind all of those big telescopes located in Northern California is Dr. Jill Tarter. Dr. Tarter has worked diligently and tirelessly at funding SETI since the government completely cut their funding. Dr. Tarter continues to spread the message of the importance of her work to anyone who will listen including giving a TED talk on her work (she has done more than one). SETI now functions entirely on donations (well, sort of), and continues the search for ET. (If you feel generous and like aliens, you can donate here.)
SETI, which stands for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, has been in operation since November of 1984. Primarily, the telescopes emit a radio frequency of 1420MHz. Why is that? Well, The Doctor will be happy to tell you (*ahem* by the way *ahem* The Doctor is me, in case you forgot). Interstellar hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, radiates at 1420MHz. Since scientists at SETI expect the intelligence of ET to have the capability to create the same technological discoveries as Earth-Beings do, SETI scientists predict that the ET life to receive the message will understand why those at SETI chose this specific MHz. Therefore, the ET life can then deduce that those on Earth are also intelligent. In other words, the scientists on Earth expect the ET life to receive the message and say, “Oh! Dude. Like, 1420MHz. That’s what Hydrogen radiates at. Dude. DUDE. This has to be smart people sending this message. Send one back right NAO” and it will have a meme attached, and it will be this one. Also, there is no source for all of that ridiculously cool information I just gave you because I knew it from my brain. Thank you, College.
Farscape also discussed how humans would react to ET life visiting Earth. I mean OMG Y U NO TELL ME THERE WAS ALIEN?! The cultural implications of such a meeting astound me. Some people would have signs saying “I KNEW IT!” or “WE ARE HERE IN PEACE. DON’T SEXUALLY PROBE ME, please and thank you). Others would probably go underground into their 1950′s bunker they built… because of bombs. I think anthropologists would also have a field day (YAYPUNS for my anthropology people) and would have hundreds of years of work ahead of them. Such a visit from ET life would shatter what all social scientists have affirmed about human culture, nature and nurture if, no… WHEN Extra Terrestrial life is discovered. A fantastic film that I advise you to see at least once in your life is Contact. The film stars Jodie Foster and was actually based on the novel Contact by Carl Sagan.
Farscape peeled the veil from my eyes to the wonders of the universe. Through science, and science fiction, I have realized how insignificant my life is. I have never felt so unimportant, so minuscule, so unnecessary. But at the same time, it is a fantastically humbling experience. The Universe is beyond comprehension, but the resilience of human curiosity as to how we got here, where we are going, and what is next for us continues on despite science’s many failures. Science has only but revealed the tip of the iceberg of the grandiose splendor that is the universe. Science gives me hope for a better tomorrow, and most importantly, a better mankind.
I leave you with a moving video that honestly made me cry. Listen, watch and have your mind boggled.
“It is not that we are better than the universe; it is that we are a part of the universe.” –Neil deGrasse Tyson