Pondering the meaning of fast radio blasts from space

Jim Redwine

President Joe Biden held his first news conference in the White House East Room on March 25. Twenty-five reporters were allowed to attend; the president took questions from 11 of them. The news conference lasted an hour. Each reporter began their questions as follows: “Mr. President.” Is not the Presidency of the United States prestigious enough? How about “President”?

We do not say Mr. Judge, Ms. Senator or Mr. Congressman. Mr. President sounds like a relic from the days when our mothers would begin scoldings of their young children with, “Now listen here, Little Man” or “Little Lady.” One knew to expect bad news when our mom started a one-way conversation with such an address. Perhaps we can drop the feigned aggrandizement or gilding of the lily. Calling our president, President, is both respectful and democratic enough.

But complaints about titles, whether from me or Meghan Markle, is not the focus of this article nor is it about the current blockage of the Suez Canal. On March 24, the super-tanker vessel, the Ever Given, owned by the Evergreen Company, became lodged into the bank of the canal. The claim is high winds blew the ship off its pathway through the 120-mile-long, 205-meter-wide and 24-meter-deep engineering marvel that has allowed ship passage between Asia’s Red Sea and Europe’s Mediterranean Sea since 1869.

The Suez Canal was the idea of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was France’s Consul to Egypt in 1854. The canal is built across Egypt’s Isthmus of Suez. About 12% of the world’s yearly shipping trade traverses the canal, and according to Fox Business News, each hour the canal is unavailable costs the world’s economy $400 million. It may take days or even weeks before the Ever Given can be dislodged and realigned. However, such mundane topics as presidential politics and the fate of the world’s economy are not our concern right now.

What this article is about is my conclusions about the meaning of the mysterious rhythmic radio blasts originating from beyond our Milky Way Galaxy about one-half billion light years away. First noticed about 10 years ago these FRBs, or fast radio bursts, appear unannounced and unsolicited at an aggravating but unpredictable frequency.

The blasts are short, and one has no way to stop or avoid them. If you, Gentle Reader, as was I, were trying to pay attention to President Biden’s news conference or to reports and analyses of how the Suez Canal blockage might result in a new toilet paper shortage crisis, you might have received numerous FRB-type telephone calls.

Well, as political commentator Fareed Zakaria might say, here’s my take: Someone, somewhere way out there is so concerned about our welfare they constantly are offering an opportunity for us to extend our vehicle warranties.