Ticking and blinking like a cosmic metronome, pulsars keep far better time than the most accurate ordinary clock, and anyone can see the beam of this cosmic lighthouse flash once each rotation of any planet (astronomers wonder how the sky would look from the surface of a planet rotating around a pulsar).
Long-term timing or the radio pulse rate of some pulsars suggests that these objects may have one or more small planetary companions. It is conceivable thus that a planet could survive the evolution of a star into a pulsar. Or a pulsar may have captured a planet at a later time.
If you could somehow survive the gravitational tides and radiation flux trying to land on a pulsar, it is just possible that you might emerge in another part of space-time – somewhere else in space, somewhen else in time. Might gravity tunnels provide a kind of interstellar or intergalactic subway, permitting us to travel to inaccessible places much more rapidly than we could in the ordinary way? Can pulsars serve as time machines, carrying us to the remote past or the distant future? The fact that such ideas are being discussed even semi-seriously shows how surreal the universe may be.
Such worm holes in space, a little like those in an apple, have been suggested by physicists and astronomers, although these phenomena have by no means been proved to exist.
May be, it’s for better, because we must be the most backward technical society in the Galaxy. Any society still more backward would not have radio astronomy at all. If the doleful experiences of cultural conflict on Earth were the galactic standard, it seems we would already have been destroyed, perhaps with some passing admiration expressed for Shakespeare, Bach and Vermeer.
But this has not happened. Perhaps alien intentions are uncompromisingly benign. Or might it be, despite all the pretensions about UFOs and ancient astronauts, that our civilization has not yet been discovered?
On one hand, if even a small fraction of technical civilizations learn to live with themselves and with weapons of mass destruction, there should now be an enormous number of advanced civilizations in the Galaxy. We already have slow interstellar flight, and think fast interstellar flight a possible goal for the human species. On the other hand, there is no credible evidence for the Earth being visited, now or ever. Is this not a contradiction? Pulsars, what role do they play in this? Will we ever know the answer?
Why are they not here, on Earth? May another space-time dimension play a role in this enigma? Image: © Megan Jorgensen