Traveller SD 2018 StillNoEvidenceOfAlienLife
Q: Who is the Emperor?
A: News takes decades to reach Spinward Little Rift from the core. As far as in known, the Third Imperium remains a constitutional imperium, ruled by an imperial court. There has not been an emperor for nearly two centuries. At many time and in many places, there has been a movement to create some form of republic. Most planets and systems have democratic governments, and most sectors are organised as loose federations, although there are numerous variations.
Q: What is the political situation on Earth?
A: What's the political situation in Babylon? The Sol system, and most of the surrounding systems, are heavily polluted and have had much of their natural resources depleted. They are under direct rule by the Third Imperium. The primary economic activity is tourism, but even this is limited given the enormous travel times in the Traveller universe. A particularly notable event in the long and now ancient decline of the Sol system was military occupation by the then military government of Alpha Centauri.
Nonhuman activity in the galaxy
Q: Are there aliens?
A: There is no widely accepted evidence of alien life. In this Traveller universe, the overwhelming majority of systems in the galaxy do not have planets with liquid surface water, and, of the planets that did oce have surface water, the water has usually been gone for billions of years. (To the best of my knowledge, there is not yet clear information about this in the real universe.) There does not seem to be any life that evolved in other systems. There are about a hundred billion systems in the galaxy, and there has not been an attempt to search for life on the majority of them. There are a few hundred known cases where there are not only clear signs of complicated organic chemistry for hundreds of millions of years but also some indications that there were once eukaryotic (without organelles) cells.
Q: What are von Neumann garbage and terramold?
A: One factor contributing to the difficulty in searching for alien life is the widespread presence of von Neumann garbage and terramold. A von Neumann machine is a machine that is capable of replicating itself. In the early phases of the development of jump drives, numerous von Neumann machines were built for mining systems many parsecs away. Many of these were poorly designed and quickly spread to systems far beyond those they were intended to reach. Although von Neumann garbage is usually fairly easy to remove from inhabited systems, it is believed to have reached every system in the galaxy and to be prevalent in the three quarters of the galaxy that has not been colonised by humans.
Terramold refers to a wide class of hardy fungi that have been genetically engineered for use in terraforming. Typically, they will reproduce both by budding, allowing them to fill densely a region growing at a few meters a week in water or open ground and also by spores so that every few weeks a new colony might successfully be started tens or hundreds of kilometers away. Many species were engineered to take many different forms so that they can survive in a vast range of temperatures and pressures. The most potent terramolds can cover most of a planet in a few years and transform its atmosphere within a few decades. Early terraforming projects combined von Neumann machines and terramold so that distant systems could be made almost habitable while humans spent decades travelling to them. Von Neumann garbage with an attached terramold is believed to have now terraformed every moon and planet in the galaxy that can be terraformed. Except for a very small number of moons explored shortly after the development of jump drives, every celestial body with a significant amount of water was terraformed by von Neumann garbage and terramold long before humans reached it.
Q: What about paleo jump scars and mega jump scars?
A: The activation of a jump drive leaves an easily detected residue, known as a jump scar. It is dangerous to jump to or from a jump scar. Longer jumps by larger ships typically leave a larger scar, although more advanced drives often leave a smaller scar than those of an equivalent-sized ship traveling an equivalent distance. Jump-drive failures, both those that destroy ships and those that send then dozens of parsecs in a random direction, leave still larger scars. (Efforts to develop a jump-7 or jump-8 drive have largely been replaced by efforts to control the direction and safety of failed jumps that go for ten to twenty parsecs.) There are several regions of the galaxy with evidence of jump scars that clearly predate human jump-drive technology (paleo jump scars) and jump scars that are millions of times larger than those created by even the largest ships (mega jump scars). The source of these is unknown. Paleo and mega jump scars can be found in the Little Rift.