Science/Technology

The truth is out there right here?

Did you catch this item in the morning news?

Former NASA astronaut and moon-walker Dr. Edgar Mitchell – a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission – has stunningly claimed aliens exist.

And he says extra-terrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions – but the alien contact has been repeatedly covered up by governments for six decades.
….
Chillingly, he claimed our technology is “not nearly as sophisticated” as theirs and “had they been hostile”, he warned “we would be been gone by now”.

I’ll give you a second to laugh and begin working on some jokes in your head. See what you can do with “tin foil helmet.”

But now let’s think about this. Is Mitchell a wackadoo? Maybe he used to be rational but now, at age 77, he’s simply wandered around the bend? These are certainly possibilities, but let’s remember – he’s a PhD who walked on the moon. That’s a little tougher source to dismiss than the average liquored-up hillbilly who gets abducted along a deserted road in the Mississippi outback.

Let’s begin with a bit of context. Recent data back from the Mars explorer mission indicate that the Red Planet “once hosted vast lakes, flowing rivers, even oceans. Water, of course, is an essential building block for life as we know it. So where there’s water, there could theoretically be life.

For most of my life I’ve heard the argument that in a universe with billions of stars and solar systems, the odds that the Earth was the only place with life were pretty thin. But now we need to retinker that equation, because if the conditions for life exist or existed on two adjacent planets in the same system, it’s more than reasonable to assume that the same conditions exist in potentially millions of other spots around the universe, right?

None of this proves there’s alien life, of course, but you have to be as silly to dismiss the possibility as you would to assume that there’s a thumping Rigellian metropolis hidden beneath the Nevada desert.

Next issue: life ≠ advanced intelligence. Very true. Even Crichton posited in The Andromeda Strain that our eventual first encounter would be with stray microscopic life floating around in space. And a lot had to go right for us to evolve to our current state, such as it is. So what are the odds that an alien society could be sufficiently advanced to have the kind of space travel needed to traverse galaxies?

Well, first, let’s calculate the odds that a culture could have evolved to roughly our level. Billions of planets, and say a .0000001% chance per. Do your own math, and play along for fun.

Now, how much older would a society have to be in order to evolve the kind of technology we’re talking about? Thousands of years, surely?

Maybe not. Consider our technology curve over just the last 50 years. Now ask yourself – if things progress along a similar curve for another 200 years, and if we were to make space exploration a priority (yeah, I know, a lot of “if” in that equation), what might we be capable of? Colonization of our solar system seems a given, at the very least, and it isn’t hard to imagine development of interstellar travel technology.

On a cosmological scale, 500 years is as a microsecond, so it’s plausible that a society not that much older than ours would have cultivated the technology necessary to reach us.

But how would they find us? That’s the easy part. We’ve been squirting all kinds of transmissions into space for decades (remember Contact?) The alien society we’re theorizing about would certainly have something like SETI, and if they had the tech needed to get here then their search tech would be far more advanced than ours.

I’m not even going to address the “why would the government cover it up?” question. We can certainly entertain the “could the government successfully cover it up?” question – in fact, that strikes me as the weakest part of Mitchell’s whole assertion. But really, this isn’t my point at all.

Dr. Mitchell may or may not be nuts, but the realm of scientific plausibility doesn’t allow us to dismiss his claims as readily as we might want to. I believe the evidence suggests every likelihood that alien life probably exists, and if it does there’s no way to rule out the existence of societies that are advanced enough to find us. This doesn’t mean that they are here, to be sure, only that the idea isn’t as crazy as we may have once thought.

We’ve speculated about life on other planets for a very long time, but recent evidence from the surface of Mars, I believe, changes the tone of those speculations in ways that have me laughing at Dr. Mitchell a lot less than I might have five years ago.

Thx to Greg Stene for passing this item along.

25 replies »

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  2. Thank the gods we have Bugs Bunny to save us from Marvin’s Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. Or we’d be toast.

    Actually, I don’t have a problem with believing we’ve been contacted. Or, at the very least, an attempt at contact has been made (whether or not we recognize it as such is another question). I do, however, have a problem with believing they’re wasting their time with anal probes.

  3. Sam,

    One thing that amzes me is how people who take religious beliefs so seriously — you know, that a giant white-bearded man lives in the sky, created all, protects us, loves us, while simultaneously being the worst serial murderer of all-time — that those people are usually so ready to scoff at an idea like the existence of extraterrestrials. Even society at large makes significant allowances for religious beliefs while dismissing something as scientifically possible as extraterrestrials.

    Regardless, as a small boy many years ago, I believed in ETs, grew out of that belief, and remain open minded about both ideas: that they exist, and that we are visited by them.

    Rick

  4. Great breakdown of the arguments, Sam. I’ve heard people on both sides of the “is there intelligent life out there” question use probability to defend their position. You can, after all, get statistics to say anything you want them to. The real trick–which you do well–is pose some well-considered questions to put the math in context.

  5. Right, Chris. I’m not trying to prove anything – as I see it, nothing is provable either way. Just trying to provide a perspective and some context for one position.

  6. I believe there is intelligent life out there. And since they are intelligent, they would avoid our planet like the plague.

    Lara Amber

  7. As someone who cries every single time she watches the big contact scene in Close Encounters (and has since she first saw it at a very young age) just because it would be so incredibly fantastically unbelievably wonderful to be there when that happened, and they turned out to be benevolent and technologically advanced, and then you GOT TO GO IN THE SHIP AND SEE THE UNIVERSE AAAAAGGGGHHHHHH….

    Sorry, had a moment of utter geekiness.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I think of extraterrestrials like, say, a friendly god or a totally blissful afterlife. It would be cool, but anyone who really knows for sure probably isn’t in a position to tell the rest of us about it.

  8. To CWMackowski: I think that the appropriate question to ask is not, “Is there intelligent life out there’, but, “Is there intelligent life down here?”

  9. I figure our dismissal of extraterrestrial life stems mostly from our egocentricity and, to a lesser extent, our focus on how much we know…rather than how much we have yet to learn.

    We’ve managed to send people no further than our own moon. Quite a feat, but not particularly impressive when we consider the size of even the galaxy (for context).

    The fundamentally religious have to scoff at the idea of alien life. If there is alien life, it pretty much ruins everything that they believe in…which is, fundamentally, egocentric. If God made aliens too, how do we know that he likes us best? And why doesn’t the Bible talk about the aliens in Genesis?

  10. Well I don’t know about the alien thing, but it was reported a long time ago by astronauts (possibly Mitchell).

    I also don’t know if they ACTUALLY walked on the moon or not. I haven’t seen it proven. The evidence sold to the public is pretty shoddy (no stars in shots supposedly taken from the moon, which wouuld prove/disprove the scenario to astronomers).

    Falling back on the excuse that they had to shoot the photos at such an exposure is nonsense. They could have adjusted exposures and shot pics that showed the position of the stars.

    There should also be an abandoned car sitting up there (instead of in some bunker in Area 51). How about a Hubble view of that?

    One filmmaker evidently has hard evidence that they faked some shots of the earth on the first moon mission. The astronauts literally put up a mask over the porthole to make the earth seem farther away, even though they were in a low earth orbit. This is on the web in a film called “A funny thing happened on the way to the moon.”

    The NASA film was released accidentally, even though it has warnings that it should not have been made public. If it is true, it sure packs quite a punch.

    Anyway there are some compelling arguments to be made that it was faked.

    No astronauts reported the effects of the Van Allen radiation belt on their round trips. But, in the 1980s when one of the Space Shuttles went to a high orbit (650 miles) the astronauts could literally see particles shooting through their eyeballs with their eyes closed.

    Kennedy made a presidential promise to be on the moon by decade’s end — but that may not have been feasible. So that accounts for plan B.

    It’s not like Nixon would lie or get others to lie…

    http://crimesofthestate.blogspot.com/

  11. I read the Bible -a lot- and believe every word of it. It supports the idea there’s other life -out there. I stopped speculating about extraterrestrials, superior technology to our own, or visits to earth. I believe it all, but I scratch my head wondering why some feel God, or His angels, must have spaceships to be taken seriously.

  12. Lex:

    The reason I think having extraterrestrials here on or near the Earth is a low probability is pretty much the same as Carl Sagan’s reason. I’m like Sagan in that I would LOVE for it to be true. But I see no credible evidence that it is so, and I see enormous difficulties in long-range space travel. Yes, yes. I know about bending space, wormholes, and the like. I know that there is much we don’t know, and that some other species may have figured it out.

    But I’m a skeptic. Until there is a credible way to travel interstellar distances, or at least a theory that presents a credible way (meaning at least SOME level of practicality), I have to give this a low probability.

  13. John – at least one of the Apollo missions had to have orbited the Moon because they left behind a retroreflector mirror that we’ve been bouncing lasers off of for decades now. And as for a photo, it wasn’t until Apollo that any probes went far enough to get the kind of distance away from the Earth to get that kind of shot.

    Could it have been faked? Maybe. Occam’s razor suggests not. But too many people would have been involved in the conspiracy by now for it to remain a secret for this long.

  14. John:

    I’m a photographer. I own a film production company. How much do you know about stopping down an exposure in bright sunlight? I can assure you that, if the moon’s surface is properly exposed, there was not a camera available in that day that could capture both properly exposed surface and stars. There probably still isn’t. We could get a star background these days by taking two exposures and then photoshopping a combined one, but that certainly wasn’t available in 1969.

    The signal from the moon was triangulated. Unless there was a transmitter on the moon put there by other means, then there were actually human beings on the moon.

  15. JS,

    I don’t disagree about the probability of actually encountering life. My mind is open and undecided on the matter. My point was only that we haven’t traveled enough, nor do we know enough to say definitively…one way or the other.

    On the other hand, i’m of the mind that the entire universe is very much alive. (not in a hippy way, more of a Buddhist way) From the starting point, the whole debate is semi-moot. I’m not even sure that we would recognize ‘life’ if we found it. We assume that ‘life’ would look like us, but i’m not so sure.

    But i’m a kook, so it may be best not to listen to me. After all, my hope is that the 2012 prophecies turn out to mean the second coming of one Dr. Funkenstein and his clones of production/afronauts. Whereupon everything will be on the One.

  16. Whenever I hear some loon say “well, there’s no proof that we walked on the moon, it’s all a Hollywood production,” I have to say, it would’ve been easier to go to the moon than to produce a film like that in 1969 and keep it a secret for forty years. Why is it these are always the same people that claim GW bombed the WTC and Kennedy was killed by Johnson? Oh yeah, and the weather is being controlled by the Japanese, there was no Holocaust, and Elivis is alive…

  17. I think the likelihood that aliens have been in contact with us is very small. Again, there would likely be too many people involved to keep that a secret, particularly for the length of time Mitchell is proposing. Considering the vast amount of energy that must be expended to physically get here from anywhere (granted there may be some advanced technology that can take creatures from star to star, cheaply and quickly that we have yet to learn), our most probable “first contact” would be via radio waves.

    We have an educated guess as to a most common frequency to listen in on, but there’s still a lot of sky out there and it’s impossible, given our current technology, to listen to it all simultaneously. Our radio technology now is tantamount to pointing a telescope at a star and staring at it for a few minutes, viewing it through one frequency/color of light, before moving onto the next star … one star at a time, a few minutes at a time.

    I think the likelihood that an amateur astronomer hears this transmission first is very good. And if we’re receiving regular transmissions, I would think it’d be impossible to hide them from the amateur astronomical community.

    We’ve only been transmitting strong non-directional radio waves of our own for about 70 years now. The first of those radio waves have only managed to trek about 1/370th of the distance to the center of the galaxy. Only aliens in a very small portion of our galaxy could likely know of our existence at this point. Barring some technology that would allow them to traverse space or transmit to us instantly, I think it unlikely that anyone has had time to answer the cosmic phone as it were.

  18. I believe we’re all extra-terrestrials, if viewed from the spirit side. (I know, I know, atheists no more believe in spirit than they believe in a God, but I’m just saying that from a spirit standpoint, we’re all extra-terrestrial, or at least part of us is).

    Now, as far as ETs visiting our planet, and since I’m open-minded enough to at least listen to people as they relate their personal experiences, two people I know, my step-mom and a research scientist at Tracor, related their encounters with UFOs to me in the late 1980s. Both encounters involved sightings by multiple witnesses. Both incidences were either ignored or covered up. Both also described a similar phenomenon in which the UFO or UFOs sighted changed their metallic skin color upward through the color spectrum as they hovered.

    My step-mom saw her UFO while on a commercial flight between New York and Atlanta in the mid-1970s. The pilot informed all the passengers that a UFO was up ahead and that he would turn the plane so everyone could get a look at it. My step-mom said that she saw a round, metallic craft that hovered stationary in their flight path, and as they approached at 35,000 feet, it became larger and larger, until it dwarfed the airplane. The craft’s metallic skin changed colors through the spectrum. My step-mom said it shot off into the distance until it was just a dot on the horizon, then zipped out of sight. The pilot reported the incident to the Atlanta control tower, and (because he left the intercom on) the passengers heard the air traffic controller reply that their UFO sighting was the second one he’d heard that day, with another commercial flight off the Atlantic seaboard reporting a similar sighting thirty minutes earlier.

    The Tracor scientist, at a Thanksgiving Day dinner in front of his son, reported a multiple UFO sighting in the mid-1950s when he was stationed at Big Spring AFB in West Texas. Three saucer-shaped UFO crossed the electrified perimeter fence (all dipping a few feet in unison), flew to the center of the SAC runway, hovered for a few minutes (as their metallic skins changed colors through the spectrum), then rapidly shot vertically upward together, with the Tracor scientist saying that the Air Force had both visual sightings and radar coverage of the occurrence.

    Anyway, I have no idea what, if anything, might have been piloting these UFOs, anymore than I have a clue what God is, but since two people I considered to be highly-credible related their eyewitness accounts to me (and in such detail), then I am much more inclined to believe them than anyone who naysays, having nothing more than their opinion to bolster their position.

    Which, strangely enough, is similar to the “spirit” issue. I’m non-religious, but I’ve had enough”spirit” encounters over the years, of one sort or another, to prove, at least to me, that there is much more to all of us than meets the eye. Which is why I completely believe that our world is frequently visited by extra-terrestrials of one sort or another. Some we see or encounter, most we don’t.

    I have my theories about what’s going on, but I readily admit that I have no proof, just my own version of Einstein’s “unified field theory,” but with a spiritual/extra-terrestrial twist thrown in. (Oh, and religion plays no part in my theory, which is why I tend to piss off both atheists and religious folks alike when I infrequently bring up what I believe is going on (or not) in this world. It makes for double the fun).