Posts Tagged ‘UFO’

Hellooooooooooooooooooo, Out There!

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The Arecibo Message ... sent in 1974

The Arecibo Message … sent in 1974

I pause in my search for intelligent life in the White House to ruminate on another project which may well promise quicker results — the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

The search is known as METI: Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence. This is not to be confused with SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which deals with searching for messages from aliens. To/from. Therein lies the difference as well as a major scientific/philosophical dispute.

The SETI project was popularized in the novel, “Contact,” by astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who was central, along with astronomer, astrophysicist Frank Drake, in creating the program by which huge radio telescopes have listened for decades — still do — for signals from far-distant civilizations.

The book was later made into a movie starring Jodie Foster. You may remember it. It vaguely resembles the book, which I only recently finished reading as part of my return-to-reading movement that was sparked by a “sudden” appreciation of the science of synchronicity. In brief, I started noticing that coincidences led to more coincidences — books led to other books, ideas to other ideas, etc. — and that I ignored the connection between events/people/things at my own loss.

There was a reason that article by Steven Johnson about METI appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine two weeks ago. It was to catch me up on where the search for evidence of life elsewhere in the universe had gone since Sagan’s book was published in 1985. What purpose it may have served for you, I haven’t a clue, but for me it meant there was probably some issue to write about that could lead to more fruitful thought than that monotonous White House disaster.

The fact that I live in Pine Bush, a hamlet in upstate New York known as the UFO capital of the Northeast, just clinched the deal. Of course, in Pine Bush there are quite a few people who believe that extraterrestrials have already been here more than once. Checking us out. Maybe so, but since I have yet to experience a UFO, I’m interested in the debate going on over SETI vs. METI.

It boils down to: It’s all well and good to listen for messages from outer space. If we receive one, it means there is other life out there. We can then decide how, or whether, to respond. The hesitation has to do with not knowing if the other life is friendly or not. If we send out a big hello to the universe, the nay-sayers argue, any civilization that receives it will be far more advanced than ours and could well look upon us as Columbus did on the Native Americans. As Stephen Hawking, the most prominent METI nay-sayer, pointed out, that experience “did not go well” for the Native Americans. Do not advertise our presence, he says, and Elon Musk and many other scientists agree.

But many others disagree, arguing that another civilization, advanced enough to receive our message, would likely also be advanced enough to  understand the value of being peaceful.

So, what to do?

METI’s web page lists several objectives, including:

  • “Promote international cooperation and collaboration in METI, SETI, and astrobiology.
  • “Understand and communicate the societal implications and relevance of searching for life beyond Earth, even before detection of extraterrestrial life.
  • “Research and communicate to the public the many factors that influence the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe …”

I’d say the non-profit agency has noble, worthwhile goals. It’s the kind of project that could serve to remind all of us Earthlings of our relative insignificance in the universe and serve as a unifying, educational mission for our querulous planet. Of course, with even scientists being in disagreement about whether to send or just keep listening, I’m skeptical about political leaders being able to reach agreement. In fact, there’s an argument just waiting for the anti-science crowd to adopt: The Fermi Paradox.

Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who created the first nuclear reactor, asked (I paraphrase): If the universe is so big (100 billion galaxies, 50 sextillion Earth-like planets) and so old (13.82 billion years), there should be 10,000,000,000,000,000 intelligent civilizations in the observable universe and, after millions of years of technological progress, an alien civilization should be capable of long-distance space travel. So where is everyone?

Well, as I said, there are some neighbors of mine who say aliens have already been here. How could we miss them? Government coverup of UFO sightings is a popular — and not wholly dismissible — theory.

Either way, I say the METI people — who used to be the SETI people — have the right idea. Be pro-active. Send out a big hello to the universe. An inter-galactic tweet. Get an international group of smart, sensitive people from various walks of life to create it. Set up contingencies for what to do if we get a reply … or a visit. War or peace. Then push the button over and over again for however long it takes for some life form out there to receive and understand it.

For the record, a three-minute message was sent out to the universe from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in 1974, under the direction of Drake. It has yet to reach its destination, but it drew immediate strong opposition from the Royal Astronomer of England at the time, who, like Hawking, warned of placing the earth in peril. Since then, we’ve been mostly listening.

I don’t expect to be around when the message is received — they’re talking about light years here, remember — but I do think it’s the synchronistic thing to do. Someone has to get the ball rolling. Douglas Vakoch, the head of METI, says the fears are exaggerated. He thinks 100 years of television and radio signals sent into space should have — for better or worse — already alerted aliens to our existence and he plans to start sending messages next year.

So … hello, world.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

UFO’s and Global Warming: It’s Science

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

NASA was accused of intentionally cutting the live video feed as the gray object appeared over the Earth's horizon.

NASA was accused of intentionally cutting the live video feed as the gray object appeared over the Earth’s horizon.

Do you believe in UFO’s? I do. Well, to be precise, I believe in the possibility of UFO’s. More precisely, I believe in the possibility of intelligent life somewhere in the universe other than on this tiny planet we inhabit.

It’s a matter of numbers. They are too overpowering to dismiss. Astronomers’ best estimate (based on science and math, not guess work) is that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. That’s galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains an estimated 100 billion stars. Around the stars are billions of planets. Alone, Earthlings? Only arrogance would argue that.

I’m thinking about this for a couple of reasons:

  • Digital Journal, a website that follows such things, reported recently that the live video feed from the International Space Station was interrupted just as a misty, gray object appeared over the horizon of the Earth. UFO researchers claim that NASA deliberately cut the feed and that this is routine behavior by the space agency whenever unidentified objects appear. NASA claimed it was simply technical difficulties.
  • If I accept the argument that there are no UFOs and that life doesn’t exist anywhere else in the universe, that the people who track unidentified flying objects are just odd folks with too much time on their hands, I can only conclude that the way we treat what is presumably then the only habitable body in the universe is a shameful display of ignorance.

Full disclosure: I live in what has sometimes been referred to as the UFO capital of the Northeast — Pine Bush, N.Y. Although things have been quiet in the local skies of late, UFO sightings at times have seemed as common as snow plow sightings. There is an active UFO support group and a UFO festival every spring that includes a parade down the main street of the hamlet.

This is obviously good for business and the Chamber of Commerce was smart to capitalize on the area’s reputation. It’s a lot of fun, with kids dressed up as space visitors of one sort or another and purple alien figures adorning the windows of many businesses. But the UFO group is serious and meets regularly to discuss UFO sightings and paranormal-related topics

I am a skeptic when it comes to conspiracy theories, which abound among UFO believers. I also know it’s tempting for some people to inflict hoaxes on others because they think it’s funny. There’s a lot of that surrounding UFO’s as well. But I do not casually discount the possibility of UFO sightings because, again, look at those numbers.

The recent NASA video was posted to YouTube and shows a fuzzy grayish object rising over the horizon of Earth. UFO followers say it wasn’t the moon, which they say appears white in videos. I have no idea who’s right in this matter. I do know that a lot of people don’t believe NASA and think the government covers up every possible contact with UFOs. I also know that a lot of people think the UFO believers are not to be believed. I wish that a meeting of the minds could take place of believers, skeptics, scientists and government officials for a serious discussion of the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe and whether or not those life forms may have visited us.

While I’m waiting for that to happen, I marvel at the colossal short-sightedness, neglect and seemingly willful ignorance with which so many of us treat the planet on which we live. We have polluted our waters, leveled our forests, wiped out species of animals and burned so much fossil fuel that the air in some places is unbreathable and the planet itself is warming up at a rate that alarms scientists.

There is almost universal agreement among scientists that global warming is going on and that it poses a serious threat to the future of the planet. Simultaneously, one of the dumbest examples of self-sabotaging denial I have heard is the one that goes something like, “Well, I’m not a scientist, but I don’t believe in global warming.” Every Republican politician seems to have uttered this line in the past year.

Well, I’m not a plumber, but that’s who I call when I can’t get water for a shower.

President Obama made this point well in his State of the Union address: “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

Yes, we should. And we should stop dismissing theories because we don’t understand the science behind them or discount beliefs because we can’t accept the conclusions they may lead us to. Arrogance combined with ignorance is a recipe for disaster.

So, yes, the Earth is getting too warm for our own good.

Do UFO’s exist? Good chance.

Does our government cover up information about possible UFO’s? Even better chance.

Is there life elsewhere in the universe? Undoubtedly.

Is it more intelligent than us? I sure as hell hope so.

* * *

PS: See you at the Pine Bush Area UFO Festival and Fair this spring.