Billy Goat Beanery

I came up to Worcester, MA this morning to get my car’s oil changed, and get its 3,000 mile check-up. Then I came to the Billy Goat Beanery for lunch. This is a pretty darn cool place, all things considered.

Second draft for White Wolf is almost done. I have 2,000 words to write on item x and item y, and then I can ship it off to my editor. Just in time to start a new project…


Today, word came in from Arecibo, the big radio telescope in Puerto Rico, that they’ve been tracking a signal that may — may — be a radio signal from an alien culture, slightly over 1,000 Light-years away. and I speculated about a couple of gaming possibilities arising from this.

The conversation went something like this: ( is in italics, and I’m in boldface.)

but it’s apparently a very peculiar signal, originating from more than 1,000 LY away.
If it is, that means a civilization that has had radio for approximately 1,000 years, at least.

I remember that pulsars were at first thought to be artificial because nothing in astronomy until then was known to be capable of such regularity. So there’s always room for surprise on that side.
And the signal is only going to get stronger over time. And yes, it could be something like a pulsar.
But as Sagan pointed out, the first signal that was strong enough to leave Earth’s atmosphere was Adolf Hitler opening the 1936 Olympic Games.

So that signal probably didn’t last more than 30 minutes, all told.
The editor in me points out: if it were an artificial signal, it would mean that they had radio 1,000 years ago, not that they do now. (Earth is going to get quieter in the radio spectrum as more moves to tight beams, fiber optics, and the like. Other civilizations may do the same.)

This is true, but it also means we’re going to receive 50 – 70 years of signal from them before that occurs.
Now, if they’re looking for us, they’re only going to learn about us when our signals from 1936 onward reach them — which won’t be until…
oh, almost AD 3,000.
*imagines a sci-fi setting where starfaring civilizations have their hegemonies defined by where their radio-signal boundaries were at First Contact.

Now that’s interesting.
Earth’s region, today, would be 180 LY in diameter, which probably contains 300 or so star systems.
The aliens come in, and say, “well, you can settle in these star systems, or lease out trade and mineral rights.”

I like that.
“need to survey your region? We’ll sell you a dozen FTL survey and colony ships… just lease us these eight systems….”
“for the next six thousand years…”
Naturally, those systems have already been surveyed and explored, so the aliens know what’s there.
You could run a game around being human watchdogs on leased planets, or human explorers…

And so on. The topic gradually wandered away, but I figured that made for a good opening thought. I’m mostly putting it here to save it for later, invite comment, and share it with folks who might find it useful.

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