Anybody Out There?
Editor's note from July 2018
There is a power cut in our neighbourhood. My husband and I are lying on the terrace of our newly set up Delhi home. We are young, hard up and impractical—there isn’t an inverter amongst our jointly acquired belongings. We stare at the open sky above us.
Memories from childhood fly about. It’s Calcutta of the 70s and the power is out. I am on the terrace with my brother looking up at the stars. He is telling me about our galaxy. That there could be another universe, where another set of brother and sister may be looking up at the sky and wondering if they could ever meet us. Dada wants to experience space travel, he says. I grab his arms. I have a hollow feeling in my stomach looking at the void above. The fear—and thrill—of the unknown makes me sputter, “Don’t go.”
My husband’s voice filters through, suddenly. “If we were to sight something unusual right now, say a burst of blue light, would you say it’s a space ship, a natural phenomenon or something divine?” I think about it. I have no answers. He tells me about Occam’s Razor, the philosophy of William of Occam that “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” I come across this later, in Carl Sagan’s Contact, which reinforced Occam’s theory—all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one.
I agree in principle, but fear it would take the magic of wonder away from our lives. About the possibility of the brother and sister in a faraway galaxy. Or a couple, just like us, looking up in awe and feeling the miracle of how we were created, whether we could possibly be alone and, is there anybody out there?
These are questions that humans will never stop asking, until our search ends, even though admittedly we spend more time staring at our smartphones now than the sky. Our July cover story, ‘Where is Everybody?’ is a fascinating read that you should not miss.
Look out for other wonderful stories such as ‘Feed the Birds’ , ‘The Lady on the Train’ and ‘When My Glass Remained Full’. Not to mention the sense of wonder that each issue of Reader’s Digest keeps alive!