Thursday, July 26, 2018

7/26/18

Signals From Space
By Thomas G Schmidt


"I am telling you that this is significant and it’s real!!”
Adam Hayes, a young PhD space physics candidate from MIT, was in the midst of an argument with his radio astrometry mentor when yet another partial signal was picked up on his equipment at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England. The Jodrell Bank Observatory was staffed with a group of international physicists, with many of those physicists considered to be some of best in the world. To get a chance to study space transmissions at such an institute was an honor for Hayes and the young American was risking a lot in arguing with Dr. Michael Clarke, a noted physicist from Britain’s famed Cambridge University.

“Where is it originating from?” Clarke put on his glasses as he examined the radio telescope’s computer screen in detail.

Hayes shook his shoulders in frustration as he checked his equipment.

“I, I really can’t tell. The short signals just come and go too quickly and too randomly.” Hayes looked up at his mentor for guidance. But the older man stayed silent as he continued to look at the computer screen.

Hayes cleared his throat before making his next comment. He was reluctant to suggest the idea but he had no other path forward to suggest.

“Sir, perhaps it would make sense to examine this data using compressed sensing.” Compressed sensing was a signal processing technique occasionally used for reconstructing a fragmented signal. It was based on recreating the signal mathematically using “underdetermined linear equations”. But with only random, short signal pieces available for the work, the results would be highly speculative at best.

“No, no Adam. That would be a futile effort in this case. We have too many variables and too few possible equations. We would never be able to solve for the transmission location of these radio wave emissions.”

Hayes sighed as he pushed himself back in his chair. He knew that Clarke was right. But the proud American was just reluctant to give up. He had invested so much time in this research and to come up empty handed was just a hard pill to swallow.

“There must be a way for us to analyze this data. Surely there is some approach…”

Clarke cut Hayes off in mid thought. “Adam, I appreciate your energy and passion on this matter. But as you work here longer, you will understand that we get many of these space transmissions, too many to investigate all of them. We have to select the ones which have the most promise and to focus our energy on those signals. We don’t have unlimited resources son. Do you understand what I am trying to say?”

Hayes cringed at the word “son” but he understood the point being made by his mentor. He shook his head and simply replied “yes” to the older man.

Clarke smiled and patted his young protégé on the back. “It’s late Adam. Call it a day and we will regroup tomorrow.”

Hayes gave Clarke a forced smile and nodded. And with that, he gathered up his backpack and personal items as he made his way out of the laboratory to his 10 speed bike for his ride back to a small house in Lower Withington where he was renting a room for the summer. Clarke stayed behind to shut down the laboratory for the evening.

With Hayes finally gone, Clarke went back to his own office and immediately collapsed into his chair. Things had gotten close this time, much too close for Clarke. While deep in thought, his personal computer illuminated on its own and an incoming message came up on the screen.

“Are we safe?”

Clarke sighed as he typed a short reply on his computer.

“Yes. I stopped the young human from investigating any further.”

A second message immediately came in

“Are you sure that he won’t continue to dig into the signals?”

Clarke typed his reply. “I will make sure that he is directed away from our true messages. He will be encouraged to investigate the faux signals you are transmitting and in doing so; he will come up with nothing.”

Another reply came in.

“Good. But if he goes back to the primary transmissions again, then you know what you have to do.”

Clarke sighed again as he simply replied back “understood”. The Extronian was well aware of his orders and would obey if required. However, he hoped, he really hoped, that he would not have to kill another human. The act was repugnant to him and in the case of Adam Hayes; he had come to like the young man.

And with that, the computer went dark.


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Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He has had a variety of short stories published in the past on websites such as www.short-story.me, www.fartherstars.com, www.short-humour.org.uk and www.overmydeadbody.com. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.


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