The Morning File: Why the Kepler planets just might keep their distance

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NASA on Thursday announced discovery of planets that could be similar to Earth in size, surface temperature and water availability.

"Scientists do not know whether life could exist on the newfound planets, but their discovery signals we are another step closer to finding a world similar to Earth around a star like our sun," the news release said.

In response on Friday, the Supreme Allied Council of the United Planets of Kepler met in emergency session ...

The advanced Keplerians, widely praised throughout their section of the Milky Way as an enlightened and peace-loving people, have spent many millennia monitoring the evolution of society on Earth, as well as on other planets bearing similarities to theirs.

Elder statesman Cruk addressed the council first, outlining Kepler's options.

"Gentle and genial colleagues, you recall how we established cordial relations in the past with planets such as Ortimar, Javortus and Zanto, as soon as we were aware of their interest in Kepler and their ability to realize our commonalities. We have thus been able to share our knowledge and technology with them for the benefit of the wide universe of planets and peoples. The issue before us now is whether to do the same with Earth."

There were murmurs through the attractive hall, which was filled with abundant natural sunlight and floral displays and fragrances. The representative from the great city of Milstopline spoke first.

"But what do we know of recent activity on Earth?" she asked. "It wasn't long ago that they were burning one another at the stake, dumping raw sewage into their water and drinking sugar-filled beverages. They're like no civilization we've dealt with before."

Elder Cruk said he would defer to Kepler's top Earth researcher, the diminutive but physically uncoordinated Pollani. The ever-polite council waited patiently for what seemed like days as Pollani made his way to the podium, only to spend the next few hours fumbling with a Plovian Pointer zult-media presentation he couldn't get to operate.

"OK, I'm just going to wing it," he finally said with a laugh, as the supportive crowd applauded.

"What can I say about Earth that you didn't already sense during reception of last night's mindcast? Well, they believe everyone should possess a weapon of individual destruction to use upon others, and some go beyond that and use multiple-death devices upon crowds of random strangers."

There were several gasps in the audience. Bruzzl, the esteemed senior elder of the east, said, "Why deceive us like this, Pollani, when you have never done so before? Are you in need of some help from one of our many free counselors?"

"Let me finish," Pollani pleaded, holding up several hands. "Their leaders have embraced an institutional form of violence in which groups wage war with one another based on where they live, or what resources they seek, or their particular version of a god."

"Version of a god!" the venerable Whyflig cried out. "But don't they know there is only one true god, the wise and sacred Ollish?"

With that, they all turned to Olliish, who had been snoozing in his chair and awoke briefly to acknowledge them with a shy wave. He never quite understood why they all viewed him as their god, but he didn't mind, if it made them feel better.

The Supreme Allied Council broke into discussion groups to discuss their various Earth perspectives. Some delegates mentioned Crusades and Holocaust. Others focused on slavery, torture and capital punishment. One lone representative brought up something called the "designated hitter," but his explanation became too confusing for others to follow.

Finally, Cruk determined everyone had had a say. He called for a vote.

"All in favor of sending a missionary delegation to Earth in pursuit of universal peace and goodwill, please indicate so with your brain transmission."

Everyone looked at one another soberly. One snickered in quiet voice while positioning a mental projection of Earth over his head, "Yeah, like that would really work there," though others did not find any Keplerian sarcasm appropriate, under the circumstances.

Cruk then said, "All in favor of letting the Earthlings take their time to advance and contact us themselves when they are prepared for it in a more enlightened state ever-so-many light years from now, you may indicate so at this time."

There was a whirling whoosh of brain static that shook the walls and knocked over a flowering tree in the front of the room.

"And so it is decided," Cruk pronounced. "Pollani, continue to monitor them from afar, and let us hope and pray to Ollish that they will find the means to mend their ways."


Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255. First Published April 22, 2013 4:00 AM


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