The sheer scale of distances between interesting objects in space is possibly the biggest grievance of almost all astronomical sciences, but none more than astrobiology. The case being that a) environments which are hospitable to life occur so rarely in the universe, b) all the points that they can occur at are so far apart, and c) that it takes so long for any life that does develop to achieve sapience, diplomacy and long-distance communication and not be utterly destroyed by some cosmic activity or their own stupidity, all make the likelihood that any two such civilisations that come about in the same universe would be able to interact reliably very low indeed.
Fortunately, the nature of Ways and the existence of the telomn-net as an inter-Way means of communication allow people who know what they’re doing to usefully exploit the shoddy craftsmanship of reality.
One method of doing this is to feed a wire connected to a server in, say, World A through a stable Way which comes out in World B. One would then open a second Way in World B and further extend the wire into it, so that it passes back into the first world, but at a point several light-years away from the original server.
It’s worth noting that this can be done with a 2cm length of cable.
This is essentially what the telomn is, but on a much larger scale. The cheapness, speed and simplicity of it1 has allowed it to come into widespread use. In addition, abuse of the law-difference between worlds has opened up the same manner of possibilities for processing and computation that the invention of the synthetic penguin did for wildlife observation.
So, with that being the case, we return to our original topic of astrobiology. The fact is, we’re not the first planet in the universe to figure out Ways, and every intelligent species in this plane of existence has experienced the anomalous to some degree. As a result this has, through the agent of such common grounds as the Library, telomn-net chatrooms and social networking sites, allowed humans to encounter extraterrestrial species a good deal. This interaction has (as can be expected) led to great leaps in the fields of astrobiology, astropsychology, astrosociology, astrotherapy and astro-shopping services. It’s also known that various dating sites have been set up specifically to introduce multiple people from different cultures and planets within the same universe.2
Some of the other lifeforms known to exist in our universe do, perhaps, make the term “astrobiology” a bit of a misnomer. Sentient stars are hardly subject to biology even if they do technically meet all the criteria for the standard definition of “life”.3 Nor are extraterrestrial deities (which work on the same sort of principles as our gods, by the way) or particularly unnamed creatures which float freely in space several million galaxies away; although they do have a basic structure surprisingly like our own, having roughly the same number of cells and with the same approximate pattern of development. The only difference is that said cells are in fact planets that are on average, three times the size of Earth.
Despite this, they do host a very nice brunch. Even if they’ve been hosting it for 14-billion years and no-one has even cleared the table yet.
Apart from those, there are also more organic lifeforms – on one world is a large group of black-green, motile, roughly teapot shaped individuals who live on sunlight, and die if they go indoors for more than an hour (although they tend not to go indoors at all, due to it causing them to experience a sensation somewhat like being ill underwater). This has, of course, caused quite a difference in the development of the various cultures of the species; technology has developed to about the same level as ours has, but all of it is outdoors, including the factories. There’s also no concept of the home, making most of the people on the planet hermitic.
There are a few sects of monks who practice a ritualistic process of having a sit-down under a bridge for a couple of minutes, but they’re widely regarded as extremists.
There’s also a whole taxonomy which is entirely memetic in nature, and which developed on a planet that itself has sapience and perception. The most intelligent group among them, which takes the form of the concept of economic downturn, has an analogue of the Captors that makes secret to the general public the existence of rocks and other physical things, being something completely incomprehensible to most of the society.
To give yet another example, there used to be, on a small meteor some thousand light-years or so away, an infinite microcosmic universe whose existence depended entirely on its continued not being talked about.
These are but some of the entities the telomn-net has exposed, and there exist infinitely more, with infinitely more possibilities for the pursuit and exchange of knowledge and the understanding of reality; not just for us, but for every intelligence which has ever developed.
And, having shown it to be such a wonderful and magnificent thing, I think you'll also agree with me as to why my telomn-net service provider should not discontinue my broadband connection in spite of the fact that I failed to pay my fixed subscription last month.
-From The Tales of Lewis-Eykos Anure, Professional Madman.