That’s Unidentified Flying Objects and Little Green (or more likely, Grey) Men.
Two of the most stupid questions ever asked are: – Do you believe in UFOs? and – Do you believe in alien civilizations? Let’s deal with the first first…
TV programmes with titles like “Do UFOs Exist?” and “Do You Believe In UFOs?” are just another example of the DUMBING-DOWN of TV. It’s not a question of BELIEVING in the EXISTENCE of UFOs. UFOs are merely objects which are flying, but whose identity is not immediately apparent.
If you SEE one, it may be a plane, chopper, hot air balloon (full-size or toy – see my piece on the Paranormal) firework or flare, flock of birds, Frisbee, the planet Venus, ball lightning, an oddly-shaped cloud, an internal reflection in a camcorder’s lens array, a top-secret military aircraft or… an interplanetary space craft.
Yes, it COULD be ET on a visit – but it could also be ANY of the other, more mundane objects. And let’s face it – it probably IS. All of the above COULD be an alien spaceship. But realistically, unless you can see little guys with big heads waving from the windows, it’s a hell of a lot more likely to be one of the other things.
In fact, unless you can see CLOSE-UP DETAIL, you can figure it’s a dead CERTAINTY. And even if you CAN see detail, before you make a complete tit of yourself, consider those rascals in the military. The Blackbird was a fantastic SECRET aircraft which from the early Sixties, flew recon missions umpteen miles up, giving Uncle Sam unlimited visual access to every country on the globe.
And it only came off the secret list after THIRTY-ODD YEARS when it was made redundant by spy-satellites. But when it first flew, all those years ago, it looked and performed like something from another DIMENSION. So forty-five years on, who knows WHAT goodies they have up there NOW? One thing’s for sure – we won’t find out in OUR lifetimes.
Which brings us to daft question number two – alien civilizations. Again, it’s not a question of belief. Unless every star-gazer since Copernicus has been pulling our plonkers, this planet is one of many, circling each other and/or our Sun. And our Sun is an unremarkable star – one of BILLIONS, about three-quarters of the way out, in an unremarkable galaxy – which in turn is an unremarkable example of BILLIONS of such galaxies, in the known Universe.
Thus, the chances of our star being the only one with planets – and our planet being the only one inhabited by intelligent beings – and us being the MOST intelligent in the Universe – were always going to be one in a gazillion gazillion.
But SEEING those planets was always going to be DIFFICULT. Imagine standing on a hill-top at night. In a field below, some three miles away, is a naked 100-watt lightbulb. Suspended by a thread, several feet to one side, is a pea. Now you’ll SEE the bulb as a faint twinkle – but the pea? The problem is whilst the bulb is POURING out light, the particles of light reflected from the pea will be so few, that by the time they’ve spread out three miles, they will have dissipated so much – your eye will have NOTHING to work with.
Of course NOW, we have developed instruments that CAN see some of the larger, closer planets, circling nearby stars – so at least THAT question has been answered for those who REFUSED to face the overwhelming statistical evidence that We Are Not Alone.
However, the FACT that Thaals, Andorians and Clay People are OUT there, does NOT mean they’ve been HERE. The thing is, no matter HOW technically advanced they are, interstellar travel may simply NOT BE PRACTICAL – due to the DISTANCES involved.
The Moon is literally in our backyard. A mere 250,000 miles away. If there was a road from the Earth to the Moon, a fast car would get you there in a few months. Indeed if THIS writer had driven all the miles he has driven in his life on said road, he’d be well on his way back home now – for the SECOND time.
But here’s the PROBLEM. If you place your fists one foot apart and call your left fist the Earth and your right, the Moon – on that scale, the Sun would be right up the end of your street. And if you called your left fist the Earth and your right, the Sun – Pluto would be in the next town. And (this is where things REALLY go awry) if you made your left fist the Sun and your right, Pluto – the nearest STAR would be ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.
And as if THAT isn’t bad enough, given the enormous VARIETY of planets and the rarity of conditions suitable for sustaining Life As We Know It Jim (a “Class M” planet) it appears that the chances of that star actually, currently, HAVING life you could shoot the breeze with – is about as likely as you winning the lottery three weeks running.
Thus to achieve First Contact in a reasonable time-frame would require a VERY quick spaceship. Which is where Einstein comes in. He theorised (and others have since proved him right) that as soon as you start approaching the speed of light – which you’d need to do and THEN some – all sorts of weird sh*t happens with TIME. Which would mean that unless you could develop “warp drive”, a trip to just ONE star would take you YEARS – and when you returned to Mother Earth, everybody you knew would be long dead.
Ah, I hear you say, but surely a technologically advanced species would have LICKED that little problem – and it is THEY who have been HERE. Well maybe – but even technology has its limits. When chips were first invented, they had just a few transistors. A couple of years later, they had hundreds. Then thousands and currently MILLIONS. Yes, but eventually you hit a WALL – in this case, ATOMIC LEVEL. Transistors CANNOT be made smaller than THAT.
And THAT is the problem facing ANY scientists in ANY civilisation. It may be that NO-ONE in the UNIVERSE has licked the problem.
It may be that the ONLY interstellar travellers are those in “life-boats” – craft designed by races on dying planets, intended to float across the vastness of space, until they approach a planet which is sending out radio-waves. Then their systems would wake them from hibernation (a technology WE still haven’t mastered) and they’d give us a call. Except the odds on them fetching up here and now are no better than the odds on finding the Class M planet mentioned above.
But what about First Contact through CHAT? Well of course, C.E.T.I. have been trying that for DECADES with no apparent success. Again, the problem is the DISTANCE. It is a MYTH that planets 46 light years away (around 276,000,000, 000,000 miles distant – over a BILLION times further off than the Moon) are currently watching Bill Hartnell step out of the T.A.R.D.I.S for the first time.
Our VHF and UHF transmissions suffer the same fate as the light emanating from that lightbulb I spoke of earlier. Within mere HOURS, the omni-directional particles leaving our planet would have dissipated to a level that would require a dish the size of the MOON to resolve. As for a World LIGHT YEARS away – FORGET it.
The only way C.E.T.I. will EVER hear ANYTHING – is if an advanced alien civilisation locates US and fires off an e-mail (with a SERIOUSLY powerful DIRECTED signal) to the point our planet will BE at, when it arrives. Which is possible, but again – those damn ODDS.
Of course, it MAY be that advanced civilisations HAVE mastered interstellar travel and have BEEN HERE. But what would they do when they arrived? Land on the White House lawn? Unlikely. They would probably be more responsible and hold a “summit meeting” with our lords and masters – who would tell them to cool it.
Stay away, until our primitive societies have reached the point where having their belief-systems – like, that a few thousand years ago, the Earth was created by a super-being in a few days and is the centre of the Universe (or some such twaddle) – yanked from under them, would NOT cause them to commit ritual suicide in their millions. Never mind what would happen to our stock-market.
And since the peoples of the Earth are unlikely to GROW UP in our lifetimes, it appears that even if Gort HAS made it here – WE will NEVER KNOW about it.