Message in an Electro Magnetic Bottle

Silicon dioxide nanoparticles

A couple bits of science that have been in my head for a long while, recently collided into each other, so I decided to clean them up a little into a piece of short fiction.

This is not Earth.

This world’s oceans are only a dusty memory, long banished to the void by the merciless caress of solar winds. But it was not always so. There was a time when shallow seas, warmed under the glow of a young star, covered its entire surface. If you had waded through those waters you would have had to tread carefully not to step upon the vast, intricate lacework that crisscrossed it. Created by the tiny denizens of these oceans from silica, this vast network of thread-like excretions was the product of uncountable generations of organisms.

Like the waters, those denizens are gone now, reduced to trace organics by a relentless stream of charged particles, but their fingerprint remains across the dry surface. For millions of years, the wisps of what atmosphere remained blew fine dust across their handiwork, and every so often the crackle of static born of this would race along them. Slowly, through the whim of probability, it became rhythmic, organized, aware.

Upon its dark side, Lattice could feel the spectra of electromagnetism that rained down from every corner of the universe but they were chaos; beautiful but meaningless. But one day, from a comparatively quiet patch of the void there came a song. A pattern unlike the hiss Lattice had almost tuned out. Lattice’s surface surged and crackled at the implication. Another pattern like itself somewhere out there in the vast. But to its dismay, it could not respond, its own voice being a barely audible whisper. Lattice listened in wonder for many turns around its star before it made a decision.

Marshaling every iota of its energy, it built and built until it sang back into the void at the spot from which the pattern had come. It was a short song, only 72 seconds by our reckoning, before Lattice went quiet, the whole of its being converted into message in an electromagnetic bottle…

“I am not alone. You are not alone. I was here.”

On a small, wet rock of a world, around an unremarkable star in the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way galaxy, a small needle danced along the length of a rotating spool of paper as a peculiar narrow band radio signal washed over the planet from a now infinitesimally quieter region of the constellation Sagittarius.

– Kiger, Patrick J. (June 21, 2012). “What is the Wow! signal?”. National Geographic Channel. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
– Exley, C. (1998). “Silicon in life: A bioinorganic solution to bioorganic essentiality”. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
– Image: Sergey Langin, European Science Photo Competition 2015. Silicon dioxide nanoparticles obtained with a scanning electron microscope Zeiss Supra 55VP. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.



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